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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)

by John le Carré

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,5941821,018 (4.04)440
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.
Recently added byTheNelsonLibrary, mark_read, PRose0590, joanbmiro, nelsam, private library, jocelynelise_, essebi7
Legacy LibrariesNewton 'Bud' Flounders
  1. 20
    The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré (longway)
  2. 10
    Game, Set & Match (Berlin Game ; Mexico Set ; London Match) by Len Deighton (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Another great trilogy.
  3. 00
    Declare by Tim Powers (LamontCranston)
  4. 00
    A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré (dajashby)
  5. 00
    The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (tandah)
    tandah: A different era, but similar pacing and sense of foreboding.
  6. 11
    The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: More perfect atmosphere.
  7. 11
    The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Setting the oeuvre.
  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 440 mentions

English (171)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (181)
Showing 1-5 of 171 (next | show all)
This book is the first in the Karla Trilogy — a set of books focusing on George Smiley’s long-time Russian Opponent. It is part of the series of books with George Smiley as the main character.

The events take place during the Cold War. Smiley has been living a forced retirement from Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. He is not happy about it or with his personal life.

Smiley is approached by two co-workers who are still working at “the Circus”, the nickname given to the organization. They have gotten word that there is a Soviet mole who is working in the upper echelons of the Circus and is controlled by a Soviet agent at the Soviet embassy in London.

The previous head of the Circus, Control, recently passed away and there has been a major reorganization. Smiley and one other person are the only former top operatives alive and above suspicion. Their assignment is to investigate to find out who the double agent is and who all are involved.

It was not a book to read quickly. There are a number of characters and it took a bit to keep them straight. It is a spy story, but it is more like a chess game than an action-adventure type of book.

The series was recommended by a friend and I have all three books, as I plan to read the short series. I know I will be taking my time.

LaCarré is an excellent writer with tight plots and strong character development. ( )
  ChazziFrazz | Jul 16, 2020 |
Tossed out on his ear
cuckold many times over
grudgeless wonder-spy. ( )
1 vote Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
Can't believe I've not read this before. It's a classic. The slow meticulous build to uncovering the mole 'Gerald' is unsual but gripping and all the better for that. Having recently rewatched the film I must now rewatch the BBC adaptation. ( )
  malcrf | Jun 21, 2020 |
Zoeb's comment below makes me add this:

I got given all the le Carré books that existed at the time of a birthday in the early eighties. (That meant I avoided The Little Drummer Girl...though eventually I made that mistake.) I read them scarcely drawing breath. To say the least, I was a very uncritical reader - other than noticing the obvious fact that the Naive...Lover is a different kettle of fish entirely - I simply lapped them up. But I don't remember any of the detail and I have no way of reviewing them in a useful way.

This is an observation I wanted to make, however:

I know they are spelt differently, but still. I read this about the time the BBC serial came out, around 1980. I wonder if other Aussies think it is hilarious, the Bill Hayden connection? There we were with our own Bill Hayden traitor in our midst.

For those who aren't familiar with the story, our Bill was part of the Labour Whitlam Government that was sacked by the Governor General on behalf of the Queen in the mid-seventies. He was leader of the party for a while a bit later, becoming more to the right as time when on, culminating in accepting the position of - of all things - Governor General as an ironic end to his career.

You wouldn't read about it.

Later: the series was great and although I don't particularly understand how they got away with shortening it into a movie, that is well done too. It's nice to see Gary Oldman doing a decent role, I feel like it's been a while. ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
just ok. Did not live up to my expectations ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 171 (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
Soellner, HeddaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Soellner, RolfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, MattCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woolfitt, AdamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
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People/Characters
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Important events
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Awards and honors
Epigraph
Tinker,
Tailor,
Soldier,
Sailor,
Rich Man,
Poor Man,
Beggarman,
Thief.

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
Dedication
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.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

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Wikipedia in English (2)

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

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