A very enjoyable read, more for the ambience than for the story which is unclear generally. I bought the audio book also and switched between reading and listening to the narrator who sounded very Michael Caine like. The story was a lot different and not quite as good as the movie but the book creates a mesmerising spy vibe which was highly enjoyable. I will read the next in the series now!
Having seen the film many years before, I was rather reluctant to dip into 'Harry Palmer' territory. But, being a recent convert to later Deighton books, I was curious about his early work. I found a slightly different style, but the detail, picture building and increase of pace was as captivating as his later work. All in all, a great read.
When Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were looking for a spy to contrast with James Bond, they couldn't have hit on a better one than Len Deighton's creation. Known in the film version as Harry Palmer and played with youthful cheek and a cocky, Cockney swagger by Michael Caine, in the book our spy is older, from the North and nameless - though he may once have been a "Harry" in one of the many guises he has adopted in his life as a secret agent. Nonetheless, in both guises the hero remains witty (in all senses of the word) and endowed with both a half-easy charm and a gift for medium-rare-to-overdone insubordination that makes him easy to warm to.
The events of the novel may be even lower key than in the film of the same name - no swirling, technicolour lights and spinning hypnotic discs, no "Now listen to me" - but they are just as gripping, if not more so. This is the Cold War game as played by men already hardened by their participation in the hot war that preceded it, mildly bemused by the webs of intrigue that surround them at the same time as they are embittered by the grey pettiness of the form-filling and chit-obtaining that form the rituals of civil service life. With this base for his dish, Deighton throws in neutron bombs, brainwashing and betrayal to create a fine novelistic dish, which feels real in a way Bond - even in Fleming's original novels - never managed and is suffused with moments of real humour and humanity Fleming's tales never possessed.
This is a very good book, but not easy to follow. It's dated, obviously, but that adds to its charm. The plot is quite complicated and the narrative jumps about, so you have to concentrate to follow it. It probably demands a second reading, to be fair. Grubby & gritty compared with some of the Bonds I am also reading at the moment.
I share others complaints about the Kindle version - why no cover picture? Surely that's not too difficult, publisher, particularly as you're charging £5.99?
This is Len Deighton's (LD) first novel and the beginning of the book shows this, it is not as focussed as later novels and indeed this novel were to become. Characters are a little difficult to follow at first and I was beginning to worry! So you might ask why 5 stars? Because LD get's it right by the middle of the novel and it truly is a great spy story, but very different to the film which I also enjoyed.