A classic spy novel, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold is le Carre’s third novel and one that helped cement his name as one of the finest espionage novelists. This novel is the story of Alex Leamus. It’s the 60’s and he’s been working in Germany, spying for Britain against the Communists on the other side of the wall. When he’s brought back into London, he’s tasked with one last assignment: to defect in order to bring down a man who has been his nemesis for years. But in games of espionage, is anything really what it seems?
There’s a reason that le Carre is such a popular novelist, and this book shows what a lot of those reasons are. It’s not a long novel and he doesn’t indulge in a lot of description and emotion, and yet he manages to get give us a sense of the darkness of Leamus world, his tiredness and the futility he feels. I love the way that we see into the world of the spy in this book, both their working life and the way the work effects them.
It’s also a really well plotted book. There are a few little twists and turns along the way that move towards a devastating conclusion. It never wastes time, but it doesn’t rush anything either. It’s a really classy book for a spy thriller too. It’s not about sensationalism or even action, but rather about the darker side of working in that kind of life. The way you aren’t trusted and can’t trust anyone. That you’re a pawn in a larger game. That’s not to say that there isn’t action and violence here too, but it’s all tied to something, it all creates meaning.
I read this book in one sitting, and at the end felt a lot of things. And that’s the sign of a great read.
Read It If: you’ve ever felt cynical about your life and it’s meaning. One for spy fans and lovers of gritty realism.