The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John le Carre
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold is one of those books that I always felt I should have read but had never quite got around to it, so when it was book of the month at my book group I was really pleased that I would have to make time to read it. The author, John le Carre, was born David John Moore Cornwell, on 19 October 1931, is a British author of espionage novels. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Cornwell worked for the British intelligence services MI5 and MI6, and began writing novels under the pen name John le Carre. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold is his third novel, published in 1963, and became an international best-seller. It remains one of his best-known works. Following the success of this novel, le Carre left MI6 to become a full-time author. He has four sons and lives with his second wife, Valérie Jane Eustace, who is a book editor with Hodder and Stoughton in St Buryan, Cornwall, UK. The author also owns a mile of cliff close to Land’s End.
Here, le Carre created a world unlike any previously experienced in suspense fiction and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold has become famous for its portrayal of Western espionage methods as morally inconsistent with Western democracy and values. The author uses his unsurpassed knowledge culled from his years in British Intelligence to explain the shadowy dealings of international espionage. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold is the tale of a British agent, Alec Leamus who longs to end his career but is persuaded to undertake one final, assignment.
When the last agent under his command is killed and Leamus is recalled to London, England. He hopes to come in from the cold for good but his spymaster, Control, has other plans. Control is determined to bring down the head of East German Intelligence and topple his organization so he sends Leamus back into the front line. This time Leamus is required to play the part of the dishonored spy and lure the enemy to their ultimate defeat. So embarks on an undercover operation to discredit a high official in the East German intelligence service by being ostensibly fired by Control. He is found a job in an obscure, specialist library by the labour exchange and there he meets Liz Gold. Leamus’s attraction to Liz, and subsequent relationship with her play a significant part in the development of the plot. Liz, for her part, must reconcile her dedication to the Communist Party, which she joined out of compassion for the masses, with the realities of a bureaucratic system that will annihilate her love.
In The Spy Who Came In From The Cold we have a gritty and realistic portrayal of espionage at the peak of the cold war. Le Carre taps into his real life experience of working in British Intelligence and tells a story that portrays the spy lifestyle that is far from glamorous or fun. The novel moves at a quick pace but sometimes gets bogged down with details and interrogations. Readers used to the action of James Bond films and novels may find many scenes to be slow because much of the conflict is internal and becomes more of a moral debate.
I grew up at the end of the cold war, do not remember much about the environment of fear and suspicion that existed during this period. Much of the tension may seem more interesting or familiar to someone that actually lived throughout that period. Nonetheless, I did enjoy it and thought it was a good quick read. I highly recommend this book. Mission Song is also reviewed on this site: https://bookreviewstoday.info/2013/06/05//.