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A Legacy of Spies: A Novel Hardcover – September 5, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of September 2017: John Le Carré, who you may know from the classic George Smiley spy novels, has returned after 25 years to bring us The Legacy of Spies, an interweaving of past and present storylines that allows new readers a way into these (I'm going to say it… perfect ) thrillers and will have longtime fans swooning. I have loved the Smiley series since I first read book one, so I was more than apprehensive when I heard Le Carré was reigniting the storyline with ‘Legacy’ after so many years (needlessly as it turns out). Peter Guillam, Smiley's most prized assistant, returns with both grace and vengeance as he evaluates life and the lies he has created to survive. Readers don't need to have read the past titles to understand or enjoy ‘Legacy’, but I guarantee you will want to go back and start at the beginning as soon as you turn that final page. --Penny Mann
“[Le Carré's] novels are so brilliant because they’re emotionally and psychologically absolutely true, but of course they’re novels.” —New York Times Book Review
“Le Carré’s prose remains brisk and lapidary. His wit is intact and rolls as if on casters... I might as well say it: to read this simmering novel is to come in from the cold.” —New York Times
“Le Carré is such a gifted storyteller that he interlaces the cards in his deck so they fit not simply with this book, but with the earlier ones as well.” —The Atlantic
"A kind of eulogy for the present as well as the past, A Legacy of Spies is haunting." —Chicago Tribune
"Swift and satisfying." —USA Today
“We wish for more complexity and logic in our politics, so we look to make political art that is logical and complex: a genre defined by John le Carré.” —New Republic
“The spy master’s latest Smiley novel entwines today’s world with a lost one... Ingenious."
"Intricately plotted and richly satisfying." —Star Tribune
"Gripping."—The Christian Science Monitor
"[Le Carré] can convey a character in a sentence, land an emotional insight in [a] phrase & demolish an ideology in a paragraph." —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Any reader who knows le Carré's earlier work, and quite a few who don't, will assume that any attempt to second-guess the mandarins of the Service will backfire. The miracle is that the author can revisit his best-known story and discover layer upon layer of fresh deception beneath it.”
Praise for John le Carré
“One of our great writers of moral ambiguity, a tireless explorer of that darkly contradictory no-man’s land.”
—Los Angeles Times
“No other writer has charted—pitilessly for politicians but thrillingly for readers—the public and secret histories of his times.”
—The Guardian (UK)
“I would suggest immortality for John le Carré, who I believe one of the most intelligent and entertaining writers working today.”
—Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
“The constant flow of emotion lifts le Carré not only above all modern suspense novelists, but above most novelists now practicing.”
“A writer of towering gifts.”
—The Independent (UK)
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This has left me with a book hangover that I fear only another le Carre novel can cure. Maybe it's time I reread the Smiley novels.
Ultimately, though, Legacy of Spies seems... unnecessary. The story was OK but not great, and it didn't add anything to my understanding of Spy/Cold, or George Smiley, or the Circus. It did widen Peter Guillam's characterization, since the story's told from his POV, but I've never thought he was one of Le Carre's more interesting characters.
If you're a Le Carre completist, this is probably worth reading, but if you're looking for good literature, maybe read one of his last four or five novels instead. (Most Wanted Man, Our Kind of Traitor, and Delicate Truth are all fantastic!)
"A Legacy..." is a return to Le Carre's classic Cold War landscape and portrays with skill the cynicism of security services and their government masters. Contemporary writers (Mick Herron comes to mind) are no less cold-eyed about the business of spying and the apparati behind it than Le Carre, which suggests that things haven't changed much in the years since the end of the first Cold War.
Le Carre always writes with intelligence and humanity and this latest novel is a fine read.