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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - John le Carré "The suspicious black car did not follow me home. How am I supposed to maintain this level of paranoia with this level of incompetence?" Tweet from jkeeten's defunct Twitter account.

"I don't smoke but I always travel w/ a Zippo lighter in case I have to light a beautiful woman's cigarette or the wick of a Molotov cocktail." Another tweet from jkeeten's defunct Twitter account.

The British Secret Service, resembling a corporation that has suffered sagging profits, has reshuffled key players, ousted others, and in the process forced George Smiley into retirement. Smiley, in his twilight years, could have easily decided to take up gardening or researching an interesting point of history, but he has wife problems. Ann has left him, leaving him to cover her missing presence with little lies and subterfuge. Given his past he is quite good at it. He is somewhat surprised to discover how much he misses her given the problems she continues to create for him. He has spent a lifetime controlling his emotions, but she is quite good at making him suffer.

"Putting on the hall light, he stooped and peered through his post. One "account rendered" from his tailor for a suit he had not ordered but that he suspected was one of those presently adorning Ann's lover; one bill from a garage in Henley for her petrol (what, pray, were they doing in Henley); one letter from the bank regarding a local cashing facility in favour of the Lady Ann Smiley at a branch of the Midland Bank of Immingham.
And what the devil, he demanded of this document are they doing in Immingham?Who ever had a love affair in Immingham, for goodness' sake? Where was Immingham?"

He is of course angry. What person wants to see the results of their spouses affair through a series of bills or in today's world credit card receipts? Smiley talks tough.

"And if Ann wanted to return--well, he would show her the door."

But when he is honest with himself.

"Or not show her the door, according to--well, how much she wanted to return."

With almost a sigh of relief, Smiley is summoned to interrogate an agent that has stumbled upon bit of intelligence hinting at the existence of a deep cover mole in the service (so much for retirement). This begins a cat and mouse game showing Smiley at his best sifting through incomplete files, weighing the validity of whispers, and chasing a ghost agent back into the Circus. Smiley is some what of an enigma to work with. One of his loyal followers Peter Guillam gives us some insight.

"He spoke as if you followed his reasoning, as if you were inside his mind all the time."

Smiley is really fighting a war on two fronts with his enemies within the service and with the subterfuge of the Karla organization. All players would like Smiley off the board.

This novel is almost as complex as a Russian novel. There are a lot of names to assimilate early, don't despair, they start to sort themselves out as the plot advances. There is a lot of spy jargon. Babysitters, coat trailing, honey-pot, housekeepers, janitors, lamplighters, lotus eaters, mailfist jobs, pavement artists, reptile fund, scalphunters, shoemakers, and wranglers to name a few. You will come away feeling like you have a working knowledge of what it would really be like to be a spy. John Le Carre is the grand master of spy craft in my opinion, and there simply isn't a better example of his skillful plotting than this book.


Read the book then watch the movie and if you want more watch the mini-series. If you are like me it might take all three just to feel like you have found every gem, and every clue that Le Carre so liberally sprinkled through this historical work of fiction. There are two more books in the Karla series...[b:The Honourable Schoolboy|18990|The Honourable Schoolboy (George Smiley, #6)|John le Carré|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348762526s/18990.jpg|79986] and [b:Smiley's People|18999|Smiley's People (George Smiley, #7)|John le Carré|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348407722s/18999.jpg|2144486]. I for one plan to follow Smiley every step of the way.