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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le…
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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)

by John le Carré

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,0541691,037 (4.03)417
  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. 00
    A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré (dajashby)
  4. 00
    Declare by Tim Powers (LamontCranston)
  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
    Game, Set & Match (Berlin Game ; Mexico Set ; London Match) by Len Deighton (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Another great trilogy.
  8. 12
    The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross (wvlibrarydude)
  9. 28
    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 417 mentions

English (159)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (169)
Showing 1-5 of 159 (next | show all)
What is there to say? One of the greatest, perhaps THE greatest, spy novel ever. Literature in the guise of genre fiction. ( )
  Sunita_p | May 27, 2019 |
I like George Smiley. Maybe I should note that Smiley looks nothing like Gary Oldman. Maybe I shouldn't think about cinema, the way Operation Testify was shifted from Brno to Budapest. Maybe i should just think about George Smiley. It is probable that I prefer Smiley to the novels of John Le Carre. There is much of the flawed in our protagonist. I like him. Tinker begins with verve. The novel proceeds half concealed. There is a deliberate reticence within the progression: there are glimpses and suggestions, but no explanations. Evidence is amassed, but what are its origins: was it a plant? This hidden jargon about janitors, scalps and push-pull is employed at every turn, leaving one Jon Faith further in the dark, which was an asset. Then all at once the novel shifts gears and serial information dumps are triggered, like some security feature. When Smiley recalls his interrogation of Karla the novel sours. The subsequent interviews achieve the same effect. I did like the sense in which the narrative scurried back to the surface at the novel's end. That appeared to save some face.
( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Bloody brilliant. ( )
  Mithril | Feb 2, 2019 |
Is this the best spy thriller ever? On the surface it doesn't seem to have much going for it. It's no testosterone-fuelled James Bond swashbuckler; there are no car chases, no high-rolling, no glamour.

This is a book about betrayal – of country, of friendship, of love, and it's about decay. Its characters are mostly elderly, relics of a time when Britain and its intelligence services had clout in the world, and now searching desperately for a role. Few if any of them are likeable: this is a seedy world in which everybody and everything is to be treated with the utmost suspicion and egos constantly seek to undermine each other and promote their own agendas. One of those with an agenda is a mole; a senior functionary who is batting for the other side and threatening the very existence of the Service.

When Ricki Tarr, a maverick Service hood vanished from the radar and presumed to be a defector, resurfaces in London with potentially earth-shattering news, veteran campaigner George Smiley is called out of retirement to trap the mole without arousing the suspicions of those most suspicious of people, the spooks themselves. Quietly, methodically, and with minute attention to detail, he peels away layer upon layer of deceit until, in a masterful piece of suspense writing, the mole is exposed.

Actually, after many readings of this book over the years, starting between the first and second episodes of the 1979 TV serialisation, I know perfectly well who the mole is. So, I should imagine, does every fan of the genre. Reading it forty years on it seems pretty clear from early on knowing what I know. Yet this is a beautifully written book and, as with all the best-written books, the revelation is a minor matter. It's the fine details of the process of revelation that count, and each reading seems to reveal fresh detail. It may or may not be the finest of its genre, although it's a leading contender, but it also transcends genre to be a significant work of literature in its own right.

( )
2 vote enitharmon | Jan 14, 2019 |
Is this the best spy thriller ever? On the surface it doesn't seem to have much going for it. It's no testosterone-fuelled James Bond swashbuckler; there are no car chases, no high-rolling, no glamour.

This is a book about betrayal – of country, of friendship, of love, and it's about decay. Its characters are mostly elderly, relics of a time when Britain and its intelligence services had clout in the world, and now searching desperately for a role. Few if any of them are likeable: this is a seedy world in which everybody and everything is to be treated with the utmost suspicion and egos constantly seek to undermine each other and promote their own agendas. One of those with an agenda is a mole; a senior functionary who is batting for the other side and threatening the very existence of the Service.

When Ricki Tarr, a maverick Service hood vanished from the radar and presumed to be a defector, resurfaces in London with potentially earth-shattering news, veteran campaigner George Smiley is called out of retirement to trap the mole without arousing the suspicions of those most suspicious of people, the spooks themselves. Quietly, methodically, and with minute attention to detail, he peels away layer upon layer of deceit until, in a masterful piece of suspense writing, the mole is exposed.

Actually, after many readings of this book over the years, starting between the first and second episodes of the 1979 TV serialisation, I know perfectly well who the mole is. So, I should imagine, does every fan of the genre. Reading it forty years on it seems pretty clear from early on knowing what I know. Yet this is a beautifully written book and, as with all the best-written books, the revelation is a minor matter. It's the fine details of the process of revelation that count, and each reading seems to reveal fresh detail. It may or may not be the finest of its genre, although it's a leading contender, but it also transcends genre to be a significant work of literature in its own right.

( )
  enitharmon | Jan 14, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 159 (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 (12 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
Woolfitt, AdamCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
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
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

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)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743457900, Paperback)

John le Carre's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge and have earned him -- and his hero, British Secret Service agent George Smiley -- unprecedented worldwide acclaim.

A modern masterpiece in which le Carre expertly creates a total vision of a secret world, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" begins George Smiley's chess match of wills and wits with Karla, his Soviet counterpart.

It is now beyond doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, the traitor must be destroyed.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:53 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

George Smiley, an agent at the very highest level of British Intelligence, enters the twilight world of espionage and his own past when he is assigned to discover which of his four closest colleagues is a double agent.

» see all 16 descriptions

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