Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Call for the Dead, by John le Carré

(hb; 1961, 1962: first novel in the George Smiley series)

From the inside flap:

"It was after a routine check by security that Fennan of the Foreign Office shot himself. George Smiley, the cleverest and most self-effacing man in Security, uncovers new facts in an exciting and dangerous investigation."


Call is a political murder mystery.

An unassuming, quietly feisty and clever George Smiley begins to solve the strange, badly-staged "suicide" of a fellow bureaucrat, who'd previously been suspected of low-level espionage.

The whos in this mystery aren't important; the whys and the hows are. Le Carré intentionally frames the slyly subversive Call this way, basing the novel's events and motives on the characters' personal histories.

Le Carré's books, whose tones are often set by Cold War era politics and British/aristocratic attitudes, aren't quick-thrill works: they're steady-but-intriguing ramp-ups that immerse readers - or at least, this reader - in the environs of a long-running spy game whose players change over time, even as the game continues.

Worthwhile read, this.

Followed, in a loosely-connected fashion, by A Murder of Quality.


KB said...

I read a book by Le Carre last year and really enjoyed it. I may give this one a try too. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

I have only read to of le Carre's offernings--The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and The Honourable Schoolboy. There is a space of some fifteen or so years (if I remember correctly), and the growth in his writing during that time is quite impressive; the depth of his characters in the latter book is much more than you would expect from, say, a Ludlum or a Forsyth.

Steve said...

Le Carré improved as a character writer as he got older, though he seemed to eschew the strong/occasional action elements that so ably punctuated his earlier work.

Some of his stuff leaves me unthrilled (The Constant Gardener, which I didn't finish, comes to mind), but I like him as counterpart to Ludlum/Forsyth, and, as he stated, Ian Fleming (whose James Bond novels inspired him to write about REAL agents).

Thanks for the book talk, my friend. :)

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