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Customer Review

on January 28, 2010
This slim book is John Le Carré's second novel, written while working as a British diplomat in Bonn and Bern or elsewhere in a roving capacity, and again it stars George Smiley(GS). He was Le Carré's hero in his debut Call for the Dead, which described him as being an accomplished and committed spy since 1928, who survived a frightful and nasty war in Germany, and who is still (early 1960's) wearing glasses, short, pudgy, and badly, but expensively dressed. He is also separated from his aristocratic wife Ann, and some characters in this book let him know that they know.
This book is not about espionage, but about a murder at Carne, a centuries' old public school. Miss Brimley, a WW-II colleague of GS in wartime intelligence, who has become editor of a religion-based weekly, contacts GS when she receives a letter from the wife of a teacher at Carne's. The wife's family has for generations subscribed to the weekly. She claims her husband is planning to kill her... When she is found dead days later, Miss Brimley contacts GS and pleads with him to find out the truth. GS, in retirement following the dramatic outcome of his first appearance in Le Carré's debut novel, agrees and travels to Carne to investigate.
Le Carré's subsequent description of the rift between the school and the rest of Carne village, the feuds, prejudices and resentments between and among new and old staff (many are alumni not employable elsewhere) are cruelly revealing of the class-based rifts in English society at the time. Le Carré manages at times in this dark book situated during a cold winter, to convey an atmosphere of awfulness about the English/British mindset not far removed from what the late film director Sam Peckinpah tried to depict in his movie Straw Dogs, a film that has for many years been banned in Britain.
Great reading. Highly recommended.
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