Smiley and his people are facing a remarkable challenge: a mole - a soviet double agent - who has burrowed his way in and up to the highest level of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of their vital operations and their best networks. The mole is one of their own kind. But which one? "His people are full-bodied, ...Read MoreSmiley and his people are facing a remarkable challenge: a mole - a soviet double agent - who has burrowed his way in and up to the highest level of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of their vital operations and their best networks. The mole is one of their own kind. But which one? "His people are full-bodied, believable individuals, the minor characters as vivid as the main cast ...a stunning story' The Wall Street JournalRead Less
'Tinker, Tailor...' is an enduring Cold War thriller given fresh life by the 2011 film and Gary Oldman's performance as George Smiley: brilliant spy and totally inadequate man. (Oldman has hinted that a film sequel with him, based on Smiley's People, is coming.)
'Scalp hunter' Ricki Tarr emerges at the start of the story with information about a mole, 'a high-ranking functionary', inside the British Secret Service. "And if it's true, which I think it is," says Tarr, "you boys are gonna need a whole new organisation."
George Smiley (whose name is thought to have come courtesy of the real David Smiley of the Special Operations Executive in Albania, and whose character is drawn from the Reverend Vivian Green) is brought in to 'clean the stables' and flush out the mole. 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Poor Man and Beggar Man' are the code names on a shortlist drawn up by the former head of London Station (HQ), 'The Circus'. He was retired after an operation he initiated in Czechoslovakia goes disastrously wrong.
"Ever bought a fake picture, Toby," says Smiley to one of the final four on the shortlist as the net tightens. "The more you pay for it, the less inclined you are to doubt its authenticity." Indeed, the Secret Service has done just that, receiving intelligence material that is in reality 'chicken feed' whilst the mole leaks the Russians the 'crown jewels'.
Based on Le Carre's own experiences of working for MI5/6, the person of 'Gerald' the mole, who turns out to be the dashing Bill Haydon, is partly based on the Cambridge spy Kim Philby. Philby was a player in the termination of Le Carre's own career when his identity was revealed to the Russians. (On a point of interest to this writer, Philby also had a hand in the complete failure of an Anglo-American attempt to retake Albania from the Communists in 1949, and the loss of field agents' lives as in 'Tinker, Tailor'.)
Writers have the luxury of conceiving alternative fictional outcomes to real historical events. It might seem that Philby, in Haydon, receives the rough justice of a swift chop to the back of the neck when his old friend, the shattered and betrayed field agent Jim Prideaux, catches up with him late one night. No retirement with Soviet honours here.
Rich characterisation, intricate plotting and poignant dialogue make this an absorbing read.
Find this reviewer's profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5655990.Paul_Alkazraji
Sep 7, 2012
Better than the Bourne series!
After reading the Bourne Trilogy, and then taking up this book, it is apparent that the Bourne novels were patterned on John le Carre's work. The original story line, places of action are quite similar in both "trilogies." If you like action shoot-outs, full of anger and vindictiveness, go with Bourne. If you prefer a story that is more of a challenge to your intelligent mind, then read LeCarre's trilogy.
Dec 19, 2009
If you want a novel that will sharpen your brain, pick up "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." Following this twisting, turning, incredibly nuanced investigation into the identity of the mole in British intelligence is an excellent exercise in strengthening one's mental acuity. The book is much more than a "whodunit," however. The characters are developed quite deeply, and the reader does get a sense of their lives beyond their work, without going overboard into the realm of soap opera. As a result, neither George Smiley nor any of his supporting characters ever feels like a talking head. As many readers have discovered before me, John Le Carré is a ridiculously skilled puzzle-maker of an author, but his solid prose holds its own along with the intrigue, making for a worthwhile and engrossing read.
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