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Call for the Dead Mass Market Paperback – January 29, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 258 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 Inside Flap

"Intelligent, thrilling, surprising ... makes most cloak-and-dagger stuff taste of cardboard."-- Sunday Telegraph (London)

With the incomparable opening chapter of Call for the Dead, titled "A Brief History of George Smiley," John Le Carré introduces his legendary spy and immediately ensnares you in the shadowy world Smiley inhabits.

Pulled back from overseas duty during World War II, Smiley was redirected to face the threats of the Cold War. He had been asked to interview Samuel Fennan of the Foreign Office after an anonymous letter accused Fennan of Communist Party membership. Smiley's report cleared him of the allegations, so he was stunned to learn that Fennan had died the day after the interview, leaving a suicide note that claimed his career had been ruined. Investigating circumstances that make no sense to him, Smiley gradually uncovers a spy ring and in so doing is led into a lethal duel of wits with the best of his war-time pupils.

Call for the Dead marks the beginning of John Le Carré's brilliant literary career, just as it launches the life of one of the most memorable fictional characters of the twentieth century.

John Le Carré is the author of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Smiley's People; The Tailor of Panama; The Constant Gardener; and many other best-selling titles, including this most recent novel, Absolute Friends. He lives in Cornwall, England.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market 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 (258 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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: Amazon.co.uk, but be prepared to spend the extra few dollars for importing).
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By A Customer 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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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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Format: Hardcover
This is John Le Carre's first book, originally published in 1961, and inevitably most of us come to it with a pre-existing sense of the author's importance: Le Carre is one of the finest living writers in the English language. However, if we read it without reference to his later works, "Call for the Dead" is well written and skillfully plotted. The plot is simple, more elegant perhaps than sparse. The characters are also presented in a very clean and careful manner; indeed the hallmark of this short book is its sparse and sharp line. It is an enjoyable read; a well crafted and skillfully told story.

But, of course, it is impossible to disentangle "Call for the Dead" from history and the subsequent literary corpus of this spectacular writer. For those of us acquainted with these later books, "Call for the Dead" is of great interest because right from the beginning we see the ill-at-ease George Smiley absent mindedly polishing his glasses on the lining of his tie. We realize that we are going to know this shy and awkward spymaster, to become intimately involved in his live and his future. It is a strange experience, all the stranger when we realize that our "knowledge" of George Smiley has come only from the creative genius of Le Carre. What a remarkable creation!

It has been suggested that this book might be a suitable first read for someone new to Le Carre. I cannot agree. In itself, this short and well-balanced story will probably NOT make you want to read more Le Carre. However, if you already are acquainted with Le Carre's work, this little book has all of poignancy of a newly discovered and unread journal of a dear friend. You want to read it to see find out more about this person that you have known for so long.
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