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Book Review – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré

Synopsis:  A modern classic in which John le Carré expertly creates a total vision of a secret world, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy begins George Smiley‘s chess match of wills and wits with Karla, his Soviet counterpart.

It is now beyond doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, the traitor must be destroyed.

First Line:   “The truth is, if old Major Dover hadn’t dropped dead at Taunton races Jim would never have come to Thursgood’s at all.”

Random Quote:  “She began her story like a fairy-tale:  “Once upon a time, there was a defector called Stanley, way back in 1963,” and she applied to it the same spurious logic – part inspiration, part intellectual opportunism – born of a wonderful mind that had never grown up.  Her formless white face took on the grandmother’s glow of enchanted reminiscence.  Her memory was as compendious as her body and surely she loved it more, for she had put everything aside to listen to it:  her drink, her cigarette, even for awhile Smiley’s passive hand.”

Review:  I think I’ve always been a bit in love with George Smiley.  There’s something so appealing to me about him – aging and ordinary-looking but with a brilliant mind.  He makes sense to me as a spy who probably should be someone who can blend into a crowd.

I read this series first when I was in high school and have re-read it about every ten years or so since.  I enjoy it immensely each time.  This is the first in the series and it’s smart, well-plotted, riddled through with paranoia and betrayal – appropriate to its times when you consider it was first published in 1974, but equally appropriate to these times.

This whole series is le Carré writing at his best, reinventing the espionage novel, and creating a group of characters that will move into your heart and take up residence, knocking on the door occasionally to come outside and visit again.

FTC Disclosure:  Purchased from


Reading Challenges:  RIP V

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