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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold: A George Smiley Novel (George Smiley Novels) [Kindle Edition]

John le Carre
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

John le Carré’s third novel—A #1 New York Times bestseller for 34 weeks—and the book that launched his career worldwide

In the shadow of the newly erected Berlin Wall, Alec Leamas watches as his last agent is shot dead by East German sentries. For Leamas, the head of Berlin Station, the Cold War is over. As he faces the prospect of retirement or worse—a desk job—Control offers him a unique opportunity for revenge. Assuming the guise of an embittered and dissolute ex-agent, Leamas is set up to trap Mundt, the deputy director of the East German Intelligence Service—with himself as the bait. In the background is George Smiley, ready to make the game play out just as Control wants.

Setting a standard that has never been surpassed, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a devastating tale of duplicity and espionage.

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Editorial Reviews Review

It would be an international crime to reveal too much of the jeweled clockwork plot of Le Carré's first masterpiece, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. But we are at liberty to disclose that Graham Greene called it the "finest spy story ever written," and that the taut tale concerns Alec Leamas, a British agent in early Cold War Berlin. Leamas is responsible for keeping the double agents under his care undercover and alive, but East Germans start killing them, so he gets called back to London by Control, his spy master. Yet instead of giving Leamas the boot, Control gives him a scary assignment: play the part of a disgraced agent, a sodden failure everybody whispers about. Control sends him back out into the cold--deep into Communist territory to checkmate the bad-guy spies on the other side. The political chessboard is black and white, but in human terms the vicinity of the Berlin Wall is a moral no-man's land, a gray abyss patrolled by pawns.

Le Carré beats most spy writers for two reasons. First, he knows what he's talking about, since he raced around working for British Intelligence while the Wall went up. He's familiar with spycraft's fascinations, but also with the fact that it leaves ideals shaken and emotions stirred. Second, his literary tone has deep autobiographical roots. Spying is about betrayal, and Le Carré was abandoned by his mother and betrayed by his father, a notorious con man. (They figure heavily in his novels Single & Single and A Perfect Spy.) In a world of lies, Le Carré writes the bitter truth: it's every man for himself. And may the best mask win. --Tim Appelo


Graham Greene The best spy story I have ever read.

Newsweek Le Carré is simply the world's greatest fictional spymaster.

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

Daphne du Maurier First-rate and tremendously exciting.

J. B. Priestley Superbly constructed, with an atmosphere of chilly hell.

The Sunday Times (U.K.) A topical and terrible story...he can communicate emotion, from sweating fear to despairing love, with terse and compassionate conviction. Above all, he can tell a tale. Formidable equipment for a rare and disturbing writer.

Product Details

  • File Size: 319 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (January 18, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,520 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
73 of 78 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Baby, it's cold outside March 29, 2004
What is to be said about John Le Carré's THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD? It's shockingly entertaining, it's genuinely unpredictable, and it doesn't offer up a cheap get-out-of-jail-free ending. The characters are cursory without being shallow, the plot moves with amazing speed, and the action keeps bouncing along. In short, this is pretty much the perfect spy novel. As engrossing as it is realistic, and as absorbing as it is intriguing.
SPY is a book based almost entirely around its plot, and while I usually give a storyline summary in my reviews, I don't think I'll be doing that this time. You see, the novel relies so much upon its double-crosses and back-stabbings that even the parts in the beginning (which are usually fair game for reviewers to spoil) can be puzzling and fun to follow. Every part of the story is interesting. Where other novels would still be setting up the premise, SPY has already started playing the game.
Apart from the deviously clever plot, there is one additional thing I want to single out for praise -- the relationship that takes place between two of the main characters. On paper, it's a fairly standard idea: an older male spy paired with a younger, idealistic, innocent woman. But in execution it's a very nicely unstated bit of romance. It felt real, in part because Le Carré didn't beat us over the head with the details, merely sketched in the broader strokes and let the reader's imagination do the rest.
SPY isn't a story where the characters trade artificially witty banter in between their death-defying action sequences. The protagonist spends most of the book tired, battered and confused. It can be a mystery at times guessing whether he really knows what's going on, whether he is the chess-player or the pawn.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Spy Novel From A Master Craftsman! November 26, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Le Carre's disillusioned, cynical and spellbinding spy novels are so unique because they are based on a wide knowledge of international espionage. Le Carre, (pen name for David John Moore Cornwell), acquired this knowledge firsthand during his years as an operations agent for the British M15. Kim Philby, the infamous defector, actually gave Le Carre's name to the Russians. The author's professional experience and his tremendous talent as a master storyteller and superb writer make "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" one of the most brilliant novels I have read about spying and the Cold War. Graham Greene certainly agreed with me, or I with him, when he remarked that it is the best spy story he had ever read. The novel won Le Carré the Somerset Maugham Award.
The novel's anti-hero, Alec Leamas, is the antithesis of the glamorous action-hero spy, James Bond. A successful espionage agent for the British during WWII, Leamus continued on with counter-intelligence operations after the war, finding it difficult to adjust to life in peacetime. He eventually became the head of Britain's Berlin Bureau at the height of the Cold War. Leamus, slowly going to seed, drinking too much, world weary, had been losing his German double agents, one by one, to East German Abteilung assassins. Finally, with the loss of his best spy, Karl Riemeck, Leamus has no agents left. His anguish at Riemeck's death is palpable. He has begun to tire of the whole spy game, as his boss at Cambridge Circus, (British Intelligence), seems to understand.
Leamus is called back to London, but instead of being eased out of operations, called "coming in from the Cold," or retiring completely, he is asked to accept one last, dangerous assignment.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive Cold War espionage novel December 6, 1999
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book defined a genre. From the elegance of the language, to the betrayal and harsh brutality of the plot's finale, this novel set the standard against which all other espionage fiction of the Cold War would be judged. Whatever the truth of the matter, Le Carre's fiction created a world which is so real that subsequent spy novels departed from its parameters at their peril.
The story at the heart of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold implicates all sides in the struggle in a hypocritical conspiriacy of betrayal and disloyalty. The message seems to be that no good deed goes unpunished and that things certainly are not what they seem.
A truely great book, with characters one cares for and a deftly plotted story that both surprises and distresses the reader. The message of the book is not a pleasant one, but then the reality of Cold War espionage was not pleasant either.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wall as Theater January 19, 2012
I recently reread this book and was struck by how perfectly Le Carre's writing style matches the bleak atmosphere of the novel. The hero of the tale, Alex Leamas, embodies the loneliness and personal confusion the author felt at the time. Writing this masterpiece of espionage in just 5 weeks became a source of solace for Le Carre. "By telling an ingenious tale," he says, "I was making some kind of bitter order of my own chaos." The result was a book that ended a life of writing obscurity and began a long period in which the publication of a new book by the author became an event in the publishing world.

As the quotidian reality of the Cold War years vanishes generationally into the past, documents like this provide grim reminders of the atmosphere that prevailed at that time. Le Carre was inspired to write The Spy Who Came in from the Cold while working in the British Embassy in the shadow of the newly constructed Berlin Wall. It was, says the author, "perfect theater as well as a perfect symbol for the monstrosity of ideology gone mad." The Wall, according to Le Carre, made the espionage industry more clandestine, perilous, questionable and over-crowded than ever before. It is more a character than a bit of scenery in the novel, making its appearance in the first and last chapters.

In addition to providing expert Cold War atmosphere, the book has strong characters and an ingenious, twisting plot. British agent Leamas is left out in the cold to entrap East German Head of Security Hans Dieter Mundt. The chess match between these two is compelling to watch. Inclusion of Deputy Security Chief Fiedler as well as Leamas' love interest, Liz, increases both the stakes and the complexity of the game.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
This is le Carre at his best
It's not too long also which is a plus
The story is not so relevant now as the Cold War ended when the Wall came down
However, it's... Read more
Published 11 days ago by Elizabeth Dokulil
4.0 out of 5 stars A Well-Done First Book by the Author
Not sure I what I was expecting - perhaps more action than the dialogue that had to carefully followed in this book. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Linda L Liestman
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
This is the book that started John le Carre on his distinguished writing career. I recently reread the Smiley trilogy, which isl wonderful, and thought I might as well go back to... Read more
Published 14 days ago by NG
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended
Classic plot. Held me to the last page in the way that only Le Carré can do. Morose, and dark Cold War plot that connects with the Smiley and The Circus characters briefly. Read more
Published 26 days ago by C. D. Wilson
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome!!!
Le Carter's masterpiece! Great read for anyone who likes spy/espionage thrillers! Looking forward reading all of this great writers books.
Published 1 month ago by packinphish
5.0 out of 5 stars Left me breathless!
Breathless is how I felt after reading this book. A masterpiece. Suspense from the first chapter, nothing--and yet everything--is as it seems. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Louis K. Lowy
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wall as the Young Will Not Know It: Highly Recommended
Given the age of this book and its subject, the spies who labored against the communists and the communists who plotted against the capitalist West, there were more than a few... Read more
Published 1 month ago by David S. Wellhauser
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Spy Novel
Le Carre is a master of the spy novel. This book is thrilling and has really well written characters. Highly recc'd.
Published 2 months ago by Bill Lumberton
3.0 out of 5 stars Crap ending! I was mad. I don’t want to read tragedies. I want...
But many readers are ok with bad things happening to good guys, and they call this a classic, so I’ll mention some good things about it below.

The plot is excellent. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Spy Novel
The best of John Le Carre. and I've read about half of his other spy novels.
Good set-up for the clever twist at the end. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. Review
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