Monday, January 26, 2015
"The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" - John Le Carre' (7/10)
At the height of the cold war, Alec Leamas, head of the British intelligence in West Germany, returns to London in disgrace after all his agents have been eliminated by East German intelligence. In London, Control, the head of Circus (British intelligence), offers him one last assignment before he can come in from the cold, that is, retire. The plan is for Leamas to fake his defection to the East in order to implicate the head of East German intelligence, Mundt, as a British double agent and therefore eliminate the Circus' biggest enemy.
The best thing about the story is that the plot is handled expertly. There is a triple bluff in the story that is set up and executed flawlessly. The writing is supremely controlled. The settings and the characters are so controlled and understated that it makes the entire story credible. You can believe that these things could really happen, because they are so unlike the loud action in James Bond, that is clearly too over the top.
The writing overall is very, very good. I usually expect the writing in thrillers to be at a lower level than dramas. Thats because there is already so much interesting stuff going on in the story that the writer doesn't need to make things interesting with his writing. But here the writing is great. There are so many layers and undertones to the things that are said and left unsaid. Its a spy story that frequently becomes philosophical, but in a really good way. Its hard-hitting, showing the espionage world in a stark light, where there is no good or bad, just effective and ineffective.