Day 1203: The 1977 Club! The Honourable Schoolboy

Cover for The Honourable SchoolboyI actually read this novel before the 1977 Club was announced, but I was pleased to find that it was published in that year. I have a couple of other books I’m reviewing this week that I read especially for the club.

Here are my previous reviews of some other books published in 1977:

* * *

I wasn’t aware that there was a sequel to John Le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy until I picked up The Honourable Schoolboy and started reading it. It is truly a worthy successor.

In summarizing the plot, I have to give away a key point of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but a point revealed toward the beginning of the novel. In that novel, of course, George Smiley uncovered a mole for the Russians high up in British intelligence. Because of the mole’s position, as The Honourable Schoolboy begins, all of the service’s spy networks are compromised and must be dismantled.

With a small staff of personnel who were dismissed during his predecessor’s reign, Smiley must figure out a way to make the service viable again. He has the idea that they can look for intelligence in the lacunae of his predecessor’s work, that is, look for promising leads that were suppressed.

1977 club logoThey find one, payments by the Russians to an account in Hong Kong, first small ones but later very large. Since the “spook house” in Hong Kong has been closed, Smiley recalls a journalist, an “occasional” agent, Jerry Westerby, from retirement in Tuscany to investigate this lead. A tangled path leads him from a Chinese businessman in Hong Kong to the man’s former prostitute English mistress, a Mexican drug courier in Vientiane, and some ugly dealings.

It is always amazing to me that Le Carré can evoke as much excitement from a paper chase as from an action sequence. Once again, he is in top form with a taut thriller. This novel is set against a backdrop of Southeast Asia exploding into chaos with the end of the Vietnam War. Westerby’s investigations take him to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, and Saigon.

Related Posts

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

A Perfect Spy

A Delicate Truth

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.