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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 27 October 2017
I am in no way a LeCarre completeist. I started with Tinker Tailor after watching the glorious BBC series (greatest TV dramatisation ever?). Considering buying the new novel, I decided to read the Spy who came in from the cold, on which the new book is based, and which I was aware was a Smiley novel. I was surprised to find two earlier books.

In this, the first Smiley book, he interviews Fennan, a minor foreign office official about his community party past. The interview goes well, and Smiley tells him not to worry. Shortly afterwards, Smiley is called by the head if the circus, telling him that Fennan has committed suicide, citing the pressure of the interview. What follows is a repeatedly twisting spy story as Smiley uncovers the involvement of a hostile intelligence service.

This very much reads as the work of a developing novelist. It is a very decent thriller, in which we learn a great deal about the history of George Smiley. It doesn't have the smooth sophistication of the later works, particularly LeCarre's masterpiece about the hunt for the mole, Gerald. The pieces of the plot clunk into place, rather than effortlessly meshing. It is to an extent overwritten, with regular expositional pauses as the plot to date is explained just before the next twist.

Possibly the most fascinating part of the book is seeing Le Carre test out ideas and characters for later books. George Smiley is pretty much himself, particularly in his disillusion with the Circus. Peter Guillam is rather more old school than the dashing thug of the later books. We are introduced to Smiley's sidekick from the Met, Mendel. The head of the Circus, Maston, politically sensitive, but operationally incompetent, is clearly Percy Alleline's successor. The degree of sympathy between hostile secret services is reminiscent of The Perfect Spy. Tellingly, at the denouement of Call for the Dead Smiley questions his morality, measured against the yardstick of his opponents, in a way which is later echoed in Smiley's people.

So, this is an excellent thriller, a chase through foggy London is particularly good. It is a very good work by a new novelist. It's understandably not quite up to the level of the author's later work.
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on 9 August 2017
This was the first of the George Smiley stories, set in Britain during the late 50s I would imagine. When talking in money terms, it is old pounds and shillings. It also has a wonderfully atmospheric feel of Retro London and a good old foggy pea souper.

I had read the Karla trilogy of George Smiley which takes place in the 1970s. I also read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold in which George Smiley has a minor role. That is set in the 60s. Therefore, I was compelled to learn more of this wonderful character called George Smiley - a cultured and, perhaps, rather snobby English gentleman who works in the British Secret Service.

George Smiley is given a fine introduction in the first chapter, allowing the reader to know all about his beginnings and how he is a rather reserved yet intelligent man - quiet and polite with a softly spoken educated English manner. In some ways, most people might find George Smiley boring – a short tubby man with white hair and glasses when the story actually begins. He is middle aged and has been taken for a ride by his estranged and beautiful wife. No one who knew the Smileys could understand how such a marriage union could have happened in the first place.

We have this boring reserved man (George Smiley) whose wife has run off with a dashing Latin lover. This adventurous lover drives motor racing cars and lives in Cuba. Yet despite all of this, somehow this hopelessly smitten man (George Smiley) is our great hero with a modesty and vulnerability that makes him appear hopelessly week. He is a contradictory type of hero with a certain type of negative view of the world. He trusts virtually no one and has a gift for seeing deep inside people and the ability to keep everything to himself. When he does pick friends or confidants they are rare but usually well chosen. He works in an old and drab London office among clerical staff that all seem equally as cheerless. However, once the story gets going, these dull grey offices and the dreary corridors fade into obscurity. Suddenly, the dower and softly spoken English gentleman will become anything but monotonous.

George Smiley is an absolute peach of a British Agent who can decipher and adapt to his opponents well - very well indeed. In this wonderful story, we are introduced to Smiley for the first time as he tackles the suicide of a colleague and the subsequent involvement of East German field agents. Our little tubby man investigates and unravels with great aplomb. This is an absolute peach of a read and I would highly recommend this first George Smiley story.

B00B5ASIX0 The Black and Tan Summer
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on 31 May 2018
Where it all began, fifty-seven years ago. The first John le Carré book to feature George Smiley. My third read of a modern classic. This was and remains a true reflection of the cold world of espionage. Smiley is required to interview a civil servant, Samuel Fennan. It's a routine security check, but the following day Fennan apparently commits suicide. Or did he? On the very day that Smiley is ordered off the enquiry he receives an urgent letter from the dead man. What, if anything, do the East Germans and their agents know about this man's death? Does the East German Steel Mission have a rôle to play in this gripping tale of deceit?

For those of you who have read the Smiley canon you will know that the Fennan debacle features in future plots. Le Carré was (is) brilliant at following threads through decades of suspense.

These latest editions from Penguin Modern Classics feature wonderful art-deco covers, which alone make them attractive to own.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 15 March 2016
First published back in 1961 this still makes for a riveting read. It starts with George Smiley being asked to interview a Samuel Fennan, who works for the Foreign Office. There has been an anonymous letter about Fennan and for security reasons a few questions need to be asked. For Smiley it is just routine and he feels that the meeting went okay with no problems – but then Fennan is found dead, apparently after killing himself.

With the police satisfied that it is suicide when Smiley visits the widow he finds that things don’t seem to quite add up. Thus starts a dangerous game in London with other people’s lives in danger, including Smiley himself. If you don’t as you read this get all the things that Smiley comes up with then don’t worry as there is his submitted report near the back.

A story of espionage and the dangers that those who play the game have to face this has a shot of realism. As George has to start thinking back to his past you will see how something that is pretty mundane can cause catastrophic results just because of paranoia. After all we are playing the game of spies here, one that is still as old and dangerous as ever, especially here with the Cold War raging.

As there is a mystery of whether Samuel Fennan killed himself or was murdered this is also suitable for crime readers as well as spy thriller readers, and also as this is not too long makes for a quick exciting read.
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on 15 April 2015
John le Carré is probably best known for his cold war spy novels, particularly Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, but his career started with Call For The Dead. This is the book that introduces us to George Smiley, le Carré's protagonist for many of his earlier novels, and unlike later novels such as the aforementioned The Spy Who Came In From The Cold this book is less of a spy novel and more of a mystery thriller.

Given that Call For The Dead was published in the decade after James Bond made his debut in print the casual reader could be forgiven for thinking that le Carré's work comes across as somewhat pedestrian when compared to Fleming's more popular secret agent. However, whereas Bond was effectively an early template of the action hero, complete with n unambiguous moral compass, George Smiley presents more of a morally complex character, along with a much more complex narrative.

It's this compelxity that I like, and while I don't personally consider this particular novel to be as good as some of the later George Smiley books I still found it to be gripping and readable. I read a few of the later novels when I was younger, but this was the first time I'd turned my attention to Call For The Dead. I can't say I was disappointed.

I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to round out their exposure to classic spy novels. If you're a fan of the classic James Bond action hero style spy stories then you may find this one a little slower than what you're used to but I'm sure if you stick with it you'll soon understand why le Carré is still considered by some to be one of the greatest spy writers of all time.
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on 26 May 2018
I'm sure I'm not the first admirer of John le Carré to have sought and read his first George Smiley story some while after reading others in the series. Written in the early 1960s, when le Carré was just 30, 'Call for the Dead' not surprisingly lacks the maturity and sophistication of his later stories. However, it's still a hugely enjoyable read which not only introduces the reader to Smiley, but also features characters such as Guillam, Mendel and Smiley's wife Ann, all of whom appear in le Carré's later works. 'Call for the Dead' is an enjoyable foretaste of the brilliant stories which follow it.
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on 20 August 2017
I give it five stars because it's like reading a masterly introduction to the Le Carreien world. The London fog practically transports to you to a time when pea-soupers carried the spectre of Holmes and Watson into the lives of Smiley and his boys. It alludes to a distant future in which these fledgling characters will become the template by which all modern spy stories will be compared. It's a kind of Enid Blyton for grown ups. You can almost perceive a deep love of school boy adventure at work. A call for the dead is arguably a nostalgic ache being attended to.
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on 28 October 2017
Like many others, I came to Le Carre's work at 'Tinker Tailor' and worked on from there, so the re-emergence of Smiley in 'A legacy of Spies' sparked an interest in the back-story, so to speak. And this is a little gem of a book. The story itself is slight, perhaps, but all the ingredients which would later reveal themselves as the skills of a master storyteller are set in place. That, and the atmosphere of the Circus and its inhabitants are given outline and framework. It's just a pity the publisher couldn't do something with the price. It is a slim volume, to say the least.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 August 2017
A solid and very readable introduction to John le Carré's most famous character, this is an ultimately simple (when explained at the end!) yet highly satisfying mystery that convincingly evokes the sometimes bleak atmosphere of post-war London. A small criticism is that the rather melodramatic ending (after a well-written pursuit through the fog) did not really fit in with the style of everything that had gone before.
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Top Contributor: LegoHALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 22 February 2013
This is the first George Smiley novel and introduces us to the characters which, as a reader, you will come to love. It is fair to say that Le Carre's spy novels are more Harry Palmer than 007; he aims for realism and not fantasy, which I find much more intriguing. Smiley is not attractive, or dashing. His ex wife, the beautiful Lady Ann Seacomb, caused surprise and gossip when they married - she nicknamed him 'Toad' and, unlike a Bond character, who always gets the girl, she leaves him for a Cuban motor racing driving.

Despite Smiley's squat and unprepossing looks though, he has something far more attractive - intelligence in abundance, as well as great humanity and sensitivity to others. When asked to interview Samuel Fennan, at the Foreign Office, who has been anonymously accused of being a communist sympathiser, Smiley conducts the meeting with tact. He even goes so far as to tell Fennan not to worry, which is why he is so suprised when Fennan supposedly returns home devastated and later commits suicide. Something does not add up and Smiley sets out to find out what really happened. This is a world of real danger, where Smiley is almost killed and others murdered, where people are really hurt and suffer the consequences of their actions. A really intelligent novel and a great introduction to the Smiley books.
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