Monday, 4 March 2013

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, by John le Carré.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is, as Terry Pratchett might put it, 'a mystery inside a riddle, wrapped in an enigma'. In fact, the author's name is not John le Carré, as the cover may have you believe, but is in fact David John Moore Cornwell. He took the name 'John le Carré' when he was working with the British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (lack of punctuation intentional) is a story about a man, George Smiley, who has retired from the British secret service, so we can see the experience le Carré brings to the table.

It is this authenticity that makes the novel for me. Everything in the novel feels real, from the rather grey London atmosphere the author conjures, to nail-biting tension that so electrifies the book's plot. The book is not filled with action, this story is not akin to the action-packed world of espionage that Ian Fleming wove so famously for James Bond to rampage across. Tinker Tailor Solider Spy is a sombre and nervy affair.

The reader is thrust into a world where nobody is to be fully trusted, given that most of the characters spy on others for money, armed with nothing but an insight into the truly brilliant mind of the protagonist, George Smiley, as he pieces together a mystery and tries to uncover a mole in the secret service even after he's been cut off from it. Though it doesn't involve a detective, aside from a few bit characters, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy boasts as good a 'whodunnit' as any book out there.

The great thing about the book is the sense that the reader gets of the planning that le Carré put into the book. Everything is thought out and everything the characters do is rational and fitting with their personalities, and this only contributes to paranoia imbued within the book. In short, Tinker Tailor Soldier is a compelling and tense thriller that had me at the edge of my seat throughout.

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