Old-School Spies

Friday night i finished The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John LeCarre. I was quite pleasantly surprised. I guess i had expected a 60's James Bond type story, with gadgets and tuxedos and yachts. Instead, the story is hard, and cold, and very truthful feeling.

Leamas is an agent for the British CIA. At the beginning of the book he sees his best secret agent shot down trying to cross the border between East and West Berlin. He's called back to London, the Circus as he calls it, where he gets stuck in the Banking section to coast until he can retire. Unfortunately, he starts drinking, perhaps even skimming cash, and gets fired. He spirals further downward until a Communist agent gives him a chance to defect.

The story went places i didn't expect and packed a lot of feeling into its barely 200 pages. It felt very dark and gray and twisted, in the abnormal psyche way, though the book is not without plot twists. Recommended.

So I give this a 6 and it counts for the 2011 Challenge under the "Way Back When" category. Also, since it's been on my TBR stack since August 2010 it works for the Off the Shelf challenge too.


  1. This book wasn't what I expected it to be either. I'd read The Constant Gardener by le Carré before so I knew he was a good author, but I think the spy genre has kind of been tainted by Bond.

    I have Casino Royale by Flemming to read too. Hate the movies, but the books might be good? I don't think le Carré thought so - or was it Graham Greene actually who didn't like Flemming... can't remember now.

    I had always thought Greene and le Carré would be boring and blokey but they're actually really good.


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