In The Russia House, set in 1987, a Soviet dissident physicist drops a secret manuscript to Barley Blair, a boozy loser of a British book publisher, to alert the West that the evil empire is about to collapse of its own absurd weight. Can Western spies trust the dissident? Just how safe is the "safe house" where Barley parleys with his sexy Russian contact, Katya? Where should Barley's loyalty lie, with love or country?
The Secret Pilgrim is almost a short-story collection. (That's why it was broken into three separate audio versions: The Fledgling Spy, The Spy Who Came of Age, and The Spy in His Prime.) Ned, a British spook who Barley troubled in The Russia House, invites le Carré's legendary spy George Smiley to lecture his new class of recruits. Smiley's remarks alternate with Ned's reminiscences of his own covert adventures, from the sublimely ridiculous to the scathingly scary. The new kids have no idea what tortuous moral torments await them, but le Carré gives us an idea.