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Call for the Dead Paperback – January 29, 2002

204 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


'Brilliant. Realistic. Constant suspense ... excellent writing' -- Observer 'Intelligent, thrilling, surprising ... makes most cloak-and-dagger stuff taste of cardboard' --Sunday Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Praise for Call for the Dead

"A finely wrought and compelling admixture of three types of crime writing: the novel of action and excitement that we commonly call a thriller, the spy story, and the detective story."-- P. D. James, from the Foreword

"A subtle and acute story of counter-espionage marked by restraint, indirection, and intelligence."-- The New York Times Book Review

Praise for John Le Carré

"Le Carré is more than just a great storyteller-- he captures the Zeitgeist itself."-- Tom Wolfe

"No other contemporary novelist has more durably enjoyed the twin badges of being both well-read and well-regarded."-- Scott Turow

"He is one of the half-dozen best novelists now working in English."-- Chicago Sun-Times

"Le Carré is one of the best novelists-- of any kind-- we have."-- Vanity Fair

"A brilliant linguistic artist with a keen eye for the exotic and not-so-exotic locale, a crafty, moralizer with an occasional bent for sentiment."-- The Wall Street Journal
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (January 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743431677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743431675
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #911,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John le Carre was born in 1931. His third novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, secured him a worldwide reputation, which was consolidated by the acclaim for his trilogy: Tinke, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Honorable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People. His novels include The Little Drummer Girl, A Perfect Spy, The Russia House, Our Game, The Taileor of Panama, and Single & Single. John le Carre lives in Cornwall.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Paul M. Gunther on July 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It is unfortunate that this great little book has fallen out of print, like so many of Le Carre's books. I can't help but wonder why. It marks not only Le Carre's entrance into fiction, but George Smiley's first step into our world. Here we have our introduction to The Circus, Smiley's odd relationship with Ann and the history thereof. Such small things that are in fact so important. Not to mention that is a great little murder mystery, which is how Le Carre began his literary career. Both this and the follow-up, "A Murder of Quality", find George Smiley involved in that greatest of literary traditions: the murder mystery. It was not until Le Carre's third novel, the classic "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold", that he broke George Smiley free from his confines and dropped him into the world in which he is now such a familiar fixture.
This little book (not even two hundred pages) forms the perfect introduction to Smiley, and though it is not an essential piece of the Le Carre library, it is not to be missed if you're a George Smiley fan. I encourage everyone interested to seek out a copy (which you can in fact order from Amazon's sister site:, but be prepared to spend the extra few dollars for importing).
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108 of 118 people found the following review helpful By "scottish_lawyer" on January 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is le Carre's first novel. It has the merit of brevity, and this brevity is coupled with a plot just complicated enough for the length.
It is an important book, but not for its contents. It introduces George Smiley, Peter Guillam, Mendel of Special Branch, and Mundt of East German intelligence. The latter was to play a pivotal role in The Spy WHo came in from the Cold; Mendel in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Guillam in The Karla Trilogy; and Smiley? Well, Smiley is the key figure in le Carre's fiction - probably the most famous figure in all spy fiction. And it is for Smiley's introduction that the novel is important. Here, we find some of the history of his marriage to Lady Ann, we find some of his background, his work during the war, his time as an interrogator; and - a curiosity - Smiley as protagonist, a man of (occasional) action, rather than the deskbound thinker so familiar from later books.
The plot can be summarised simply. Smiley has interviewed an individual about allegations of spying. After the interview they die, apparently at their own hand, leaving a note which suggests that Smiley's interview led to the death. Smiley investigates whether this was suicide or murder? Was the deceased a spy? He is led to a confrontation with individuals from East German intelligence.
The writing style is workmanlike, although there is some foreshadowing of later le Carre obsessions. There are musings on the nature of betrayal (personal betrayal in a relationship, and public betrayal of a country); there is the conflict which rests at the heart of Smiley, a moral man acting in a way which may be immoral to achieve a greater objective.
Characterisation is perfunctory, only Smiley being adequately realised.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Penelope Blake on August 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Recently I decided to buy nice new hardback copies of all of my favorite author, John LeCarre's books. When I did a quick search, I discovered that I not only didn't own his first novel, Call for the Dead, I had never read it. So, I bought it and what a pleasure it was to read when it arrived. Clearly, John LeCarre was a great genious from the very beginning. It introduces the reader to his greatest character, George Smiley, and fills in a lot of unknowns about his beginnings, his marriage to Ann and his odd and quiet character. Its an espionage novel which is almost a who-done-it, and it works beautifully on both levels. This recent publication of the book contains a new forward by P.D. James and a terrific forward by the author himself discussing how he came to be a writer. It is a very satisfying read, and, as always with LeCarre, I was sorry when I was finished reading. I think all of you will be, too.

Penny Blake, Chicago
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on July 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
John le Carre's _Call for the Dead_ is the book that introduced the brooding, conflicted British secret agent, George Smiley. Call for the Dead was first published in 1961. It is one of le Carre's shorter books but it is packed with all the elements that have made le Carre's subsequent Smiley novels so special: the ability to portray exquisitely the external and internal life of his characters; the ability to make the reader feel he/she is walking the dark and dangerous streets of London, Paris, Berlin, and points east; all the while writing a suspenseful novel.

The book begins with a chapter entitled "A Brief History of George Smiley". In one brief chapter we are presented with an almost fully-formed Smiley. In short order Smiley's university career, his discreet introduction into British Intelligence and his years in Germany in the 1930s and the early stages of World War II are set out. So too is his tortured marriage to the breathtakingly beautiful yet famously unfaithful Lady Ann. The first chapter ends as Smiley arrives by taxi to his office at 2:00 a.m.

The plot is straightforward. Agent Samuel Fennan has been found dead, the product of a suicide if one is to believe the signed suicide note found by his widow, Elsa Fennan. Fennan had been interviewed by the service after a typed note denouncing him for being a communist at University was sent in. Although he was assured at the end of the interview that his name would soon be cleared, Fennan's suicide note claims that his life and career were ruined by the investigation. Because Smiley was the agent that conducted the interview, and because of the internal politics of the agency (one of le Carre's specialties), Smiley was chosen to conduct the post-suicide investigation and file a report.
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