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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)

by John le Carré

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Karla Trilogy (1), George Smiley (5)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,1442241,005 (4.05)497
British agent George Smiley hunts for a mole in the Secret Service and begins his epic game of international chess with his Soviet counterpart, an agent named Karla.
  1. 30
    The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré (longway)
  2. 21
    The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Setting the oeuvre.
  3. 10
    Game, Set & Match trilogy by Leonard Deighton (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Another great trilogy.
  4. 10
    A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré (dajashby)
  5. 11
    The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: More perfect atmosphere.
  6. 00
    The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (tandah)
    tandah: A different era, but similar pacing and sense of foreboding.
  7. 00
    Declare by Tim Powers (LamontCranston)
  8. 12
    The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross (wvlibrarydude)
  9. 27
    Red Rabbit by Tom Clancy (Hedgepeth)
    Hedgepeth: Red Rabbit is any early case in Jack Ryans career that is not as action driven as some of the other novels. It moves a little faster than Tinker, Tailor but should still appeal to those who appreciate a more methodical pace.

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» See also 497 mentions

English (211)  Spanish (3)  French (3)  Dutch (2)  Hebrew (1)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  All languages (223)
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
The first of a series of novels by John Le Carré about the British espionage agent George Smiley and his long-ranging battle against Soviet spy-master Karla is splendidly written and methodically, quietly thrilling. It is also somewhat thick going at times, with a large number of characters to track and a patois pertinent to the espionage trade that is often left to the reader to decipher purely by context. The cold, relentless, doggedness of the plot is exhilarating despite being largely people simply asking and answering (or not answering) questions. Something of the anti-James Bond, in that shoot-outs and derring-do are virtually absent, the book nonetheless pulls the reader along forcibly but with gentility. There's a melancholy air about the milieu and around George Smiley, the ousted, cuckolded senior agent. It's a very good book. ( )
  jumblejim | Aug 26, 2023 |
This is an absolute masterwork. It's also a spy novel, which means that I can't really discuss it much without introducing subtle little spoilers. Who knows, maybe it's so damn good that spoilers don't matter and it would probably be even better on a second reading, but just in case, stop reading this review and go and pick it up.

The prose is lucid, the plot compelling, the characters brilliant, the ideas engaging and the moral journey richly rewarding. See, I've done it already. I told you to stop reading. What does "moral journey" mean? As you read this book you'll be so desperate for clues that every review you've ever read will rattle around inside your brain and possibly distract you. Best to just take my word for it and go and pick it up. If you're worried that this is not really your genre, don't. I have read two spy novels in my life and although this is undoubtedly genre fiction, it transcends its genre entirely. If you only read one spy novel in your life, make it this one. ( )
  robfwalter | Jul 31, 2023 |
Grand fun! A real spy novel! Smiley has to figure it all out and finally sets a trap to catch the mole. Now, with my third Le Carre novel, I have hit a classic. ( )
  kukulaj | Jul 2, 2023 |
3 1/2 stars. I read several of le Carre's Smiley books back in the late 70s and my overall memory of them was that they were OK but not that interesting. Spurred on by the selection of this book as a group read for a GoodReads group, I decided it was time to revisit this and see if my opinion had changed.

I remembered very little of the details of the plot but unfortunately discovered that my impression still held true. I can now admire le Carre's writing, and the espionage mole hunt for a Russian agent inside the British "Circus" was probably realisitic, but the pace was too slow for me. I also found Smiley himself a character that I never bonded to - and disliked all the stuff about his wife Ann. I much preferred [b:Agent in Place|550739|Agent in Place|Helen MacInnes|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1282706669s/550739.jpg|2913443] by Helen MacInnes and [b:The Cardinal of the Kremlin|382549|The Cardinal of the Kremlin (Jack Ryan, #4)|Tom Clancy|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1319381380s/382549.jpg|17028815] by Tom Clancy which deal with the same basic premise. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
I don't get this one. Bureaucracy and paperwork investigations aren't very thrilling. Disappointing after "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold". ( )
  fji65hj7 | May 14, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
10 of the Greatest Cold War Spy Novels
“Like Fleming, Le Carré (real name: David John Moore Cornwall) worked for British intelligence. But where Fleming used his WW 2 experiences as a springboard for fantasy, Le Carre turned his Cold War service into grimly realistic novels. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1963) trumped Deighton as a response to James Bond’s glamourous world of espionage, and he continues to turn out fine work to this day. Tinker charts the search for a Soviet mole in the upper echelons of British intelligence, providing Le Carré’s signature character – the low-key professional George Smiley – with a late-in-the-game chance to reclaim his standing in the Circus (MI6), made bittersweet by betrayal. A fine BBC serialization in 1974 was followed by an equally well-received feature-film version in 2011.”
Karla is finally lured across a Berlin bridge and into the West. But, again, what figure is cut by the evil mastermind when he appears? “He wore a grimy shirt and a black tie: he looked like a poor man going to the funeral of a friend.” Le Carré has never written a better sentence, one so impatient of ideology and so attentive to what he, following W. H. Auden, describes plainly as “the human situation.” The television series of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” has lost none of its grip, and the new film will recruit new friends to the cause; but if we seek George Smiley and his people, with their full complement of terrors, illusions, and shames, we should follow the example of the ever-retiring Smiley, and go back to our books. That’s the truth
added by John_Vaughan | editNew Yorker, Anthony Lane (Dec 14, 2011)
The power of the novel is that le Carré transfigured espionage – its techniques, failures and deceptions – into a rich metaphor combining national decay, the disintegration of certainties with advancing age, the impossibility of knowing another human being's mind, the fragility of all trust and loyalty.
added by thorold | editThe Observer, Neal Ascherson (Sep 11, 2011)
"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is fluently written; it is full of vivid character sketches of secret agents and bureaucrats from all levels of British society , and the dialogue catches their voices well. The social and physical details of English life and the day to day activities of the intelligence service at home and abroad are convincing. Unlike many writers Le Carré is at his best showing men hard at work; he is fascinated by the office politics of the agency since the war.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Richard Locke (Jul 20, 1974)

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
le Carré, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davidson, FrederickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Greenburger, FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jayston, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laing, TimIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mänttäri, EeroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soellner, HeddaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soellner, RolfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, MattCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woolfitt, AdamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Rich Man,
Poor Man,

Small children's fortune-telling rhyme used when counting cherry stones, waistcoat buttons, daisy petals, or the seeds of the Timothy grass.
– from the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes
For James Bennett and Dusty Rhodes in memory.
First words
The truth is, if old Major Dover hadn't dropped dead at Taunton races Jim would never have come to Thursgood's at all.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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British agent George Smiley hunts for a mole in the Secret Service and begins his epic game of international chess with his Soviet counterpart, an agent named Karla.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary
Is he friend or foe?
Spying is no nurs'ry rhyme
Control suspects all
Smiley and Control
Team up to capture the mole
Deep must they burrow

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