Day 117: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

After seeing the exciting movie this winter, I decided to read the novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré. George Smiley has been drummed out of the service and the entire leadership of “The Circus” (slang for Britain’s intelligence organization) replaced after the death of Control, their former leader.

But the ministry calls him in to listen to the tale of Ricky Tarr, a low-level operative from Penang, who has been missing for months. Tarr’s story includes information from the wife of a Soviet operative and an allegation that The Circus has a mole at the highest level, moreover, that the mole has been sending the Russians information for some time. The ministry wants Smiley to investigate. It is soon clear that the mole is one of only a few of Smiley’s colleagues, whom he has known and worked with for years.

The novel is breathtakingly suspenseful even though, having seen the movie, I knew the ending. Smiley puts the pieces together by going over records of significant events and interviewing several agents who were replaced because of suspicions they raised or events they witnessed.

This may not sound exciting in this day of explosions and car chases, but le Carré is a master at building up the intrigue and suspense. You will not want to put this book down. I recommend the movie as well, featuring a host of excellent British actors.

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