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Spy Thriller Review – Call for the Dead

Call for the Dead by John LeCarre

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This is the first thriller written by LeCarre, who later became a best-selling spy novelist in the middle 1970s. Published in 1962, this mystery features the first appearance of his series hero spymaster George Smiley, who appears in A Murder of Quality and the Karla trilogy: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People.

Tightly written, the novel spins out a plausible story with believable characters, especially Elsa Fennan, wife of a murdered diplomat. It gives the backstory on Smiley’s unhappy marriage to Ann and his early spying days in Germany in the late 1930s, a time and place not high on our list of historical eras we’d like to visit.

Smiley’s trusted associate Peter Guillam, who plays a big part in the Karla trilogy, also appears as a character who teases Smiley like a school chum from the same generation would. Peter is younger in the Karla trilogy. Yard Inspector Mendel is fiercely protective of Smiley in this one, as he is in later books.

There are mere hints that LeCarre would let himself stretch out, with only short digressions on the importance of individualism and on the sprawl that started around UK cities in the car crazy Sixties. All in all, well worth reading.

 

 

 

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