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The Spy Who Came In from the Cold
Stock image - cover art may vary
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0743442539
ISBN-13: 9780743442534
Publisher: Scribner
Release Date: November, 2001
Length: 224 Pages
Weight: 9.6 ounces
Dimensions: 8.2 X 5.3 X 0.7 inches
Language: English
   
   

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

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It would be an international crime to reveal too much of the jeweled clockwork plot of Le Carré's first masterpiece, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. But we are at liberty to disclose that Graham Greene called it the "finest spy story ever written," and that the taut tale concerns Alec Leamas, a British agent in early Cold ...
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Ex-Library Copy

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Customer Reviews

  The definitive Cold War espionage novel

This book defined a genre. From the elegance of the language, to the betrayal and harsh brutality of the plot's finale, this novel set the standard against which all other espionage fiction of the Cold War would be judged. Whatever the truth of the matter, Le Carre's fiction created a world which is so real that subsequent spy novels departed from its parameters at their peril.

The story at the heart of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold implicates all sides in the struggle in a hypocritical conspiriacy of betrayal and disloyalty. The message seems to be that no good deed goes unpunished and that things certainly are not what they seem.

A truely great book, with characters one cares for and a deftly plotted story that both surprises and distresses the reader. The message of the book is not a pleasant one, but then the reality of Cold War espionage was not pleasant either.

 
  A Brilliant Spy Novel From A Master Craftsman!

John Le Carre's disillusioned, cynical and spellbinding spy novels are so unique because they are based on a wide knowledge of international espionage. Le Carre, (pen name for David John Moore Cornwell), acquired this knowledge firsthand during his years as an operations agent for the British M15. Kim Philby, the infamous defector, actually gave Le Carre's name to the Russians. The author's professional experience and his tremendous talent as a master storyteller and superb writer make "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" one of the most brilliant novels I have read about spying and the Cold War. Graham Greene certainly agreed with me, or I with him, when he remarked that it is the best spy story he had ever read. The novel won Le Carré the Somerset Maugham Award.

The novel's anti-hero, Alec Leamas, is the antithesis of the glamorous action-hero spy, James Bond. A successful espionage agent for the British during WWII, Leamus continued on with counter-intelligence operations after the war, finding it difficult to adjust to life in peacetime. He eventually became the head of Britain's Berlin Bureau at the height of the Cold War. Leamus, slowly going to seed, drinking too much, world weary, had been losing his German double agents, one by one, to East German Abteilung assassins. Finally, with the loss of his best spy, Karl Riemeck, Leamus has no agents left. His anguish at Riemeck's death is palpable. He has begun to tire of the whole spy game, as his boss at Cambridge Circus, (British Intelligence), seems to understand.

Leamus is called back to London, but instead of being eased out of operations, called "coming in from the Cold," or retiring completely, he is asked to accept one last, dangerous assignment. "Control," the man Leamus reports to, asks him if he is up to "taking-out" Hans Dieter Mundt, a top East German operations agent and the man responsible for the deaths of Leamus' agents. The ploy is elaborate, and if successful, it will conclude with Mundt's own men killing him. With much planning Leamus convincingly changes his lifestyle and sets himself up as bait as a potential defector to the Eastern Block countries. As Leamus works efficiently toward his goal, two unexpected problems come-up - problems that he is unaware of until much later, when it is almost too late to resolve them. First, he falls in love with a young woman, a member of the Communist Party, who was supposed to be part of his cover, nothing more. And second, Control and the Circus have embedded plots within plots to further their end, which they don't see fit to reveal to Leamus - now operating in the dark. Le Carre portrays spying as a dirty game of acting, betrayal, lying, excruciating tension, and assumed identities. The espionage methods of East and West are the same. The only difference is their economic ideologies. There is a seemingly endless game of chess between the superpowers, and spies are as expendable as pawns.

This is a short novel, 219 pages, and very tightly written. However there is much packed into this bleak tale of the espionage business. The story has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. And the ride is well worth it!
JANA

 
  Le Carre's Best...

This is it - the best spy novel ever written, so good that not even Le Carre has ever been able to match it. If your image of espionage is formed by the cheesy gadgetry and high adventure of James Bond, then get ready for one very rude awakening. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold is a heartbreaking story, full of lonely people sadly making their way through a cold world - the Cold War was never more chilly than it is here. It's a sad and depressing book, but a smashingly good one, too. Read it.
 
  a masterpiece

THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD is the quintessential cold war espionage novel. For four decades, this early LeCarre tale has served as the benchmark for 'spy thriller' writing. Reading it fresh in 2004, it's easy to see why.

Though THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD was only LeCarre's third novel, his strengths as a storyteller are fully evident here. The opening chapter alone serves as a narrative tour-de-force, swiftly and adroitly introducing the reader to the central characters, their impossible situation, and the hopeless, duplicitous world they inhabit. It is beautfully mirrored by the final chapter, in which the consequences of protagonist Alec Leamas' weakness becomes excruciatingly, tragically clear.

In terms of both style and structure, this early work seems to take its cues from Grahame Greene's '50s novels -- particularly THE QUIET AMERICAN. As in Greene, LeCarre's descriptions here are spare and succinct, with characters and situations quickly sketched in razor-sharp detail. Like Greene, this writer shows that sacrifice of innocents at the hands of arrogant ideologues has become mundane. He reveals the tragic complicity of all-too-human agents like Alec Leamas. Yet LeCarre does not share Greene's belief in personal redemption: His characters take it for granted that they live in an amoral labyrinth in which treachery and triple-cross are simply routine.

Economy and intelligence are hallmarks of this work. Dialogue is terse, sharp; plot complications are introduced with a minimum of fuss. LeCarre sketches his players deftly, in medias res, as they run the gauntlet. Consequently, this 224-page novel can be read in two sittings, yet its characters and situations seem fully realized -- and its tragic conclusion hits with tremendous impact.

THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD is an early work, by a writer still looking to more experienced hands for models. It would be almost a decade before LeCarre truly came into his own, with TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY. Still, it's clear that this novel is more than just a superlatively crafted 'spy thriller', more than just a classic of the genre. Forty years after its first publication, LeCarre's tragic tale has lost none of its power: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD remains an extraordinary masterwork, by a supremely gifted and intelligent writer.
 
  The Best of the Best

Arguably the best spy novel ever written. It was out of print for years. I envy the readers who can now buy this newly printed copy. I had to make due with a decades old moldy copy that fell apart as I read it. Not that I'm complaining--I loved the book! Le Carre knows his spy stuff. This is not some techno-filled, action-packed, lets-throw-in-a-plot-twist-for-the-h@ll-of-it book. This is a tightly-packed page turner that will lead you by the hand in the beginning and then drop a piano on you at the end. Le Carre's heroes are not Bond, they are overworked, overweight, underpaid, highly intelligent characters who love their country. This book was one of Le Carre's first books, and I feel his very best. The "winners" and "losers" are blurred in the spy game, and this book clearly illustrates that point. If you want to get a feel for what real Cold War spy work was all about, read this book. Highly recommended.