The first of his peerless novels of Cold War espionage and international intrigue, Call for the Dead is also the debut of John le Carré's masterful creation George Smiley.
After a routine security check by George Smiley, civil servant Samuel Fennan apparently kills himself. When Smiley finds Circus head Maston is trying to blame him for the man's death, he begins his own investigation, meeting with Fennan's widow to find out what could have led him to such desperation. But on the very day that Smiley is ordered off the enquiry he receives an urgent letter from the dead man. Do the East Germans - and their agents - know more about this man's death than the Circus previously imagined? Le Carré's first book, Call for the Dead, introduced the tenacious and retiring George Smiley in a gripping tale of espionage and deceit.
If you enjoyed Call for the Dead, you might like le Carré's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.
'Intelligent, thrilling, surprising ... makes most cloak-and-dagger stuff taste of cardboard' Sunday Telegraph
'Brilliant. Realistic. Constant suspense' Observer
Customer ReviewsSee All
Spy Thriller or Murder Mystery?
When you join a new book club, established members give you the benefit of the doubt when voting for a genre, author or title for all to read and chew the cud. Somehow they wish to include you in their 'tribe.' As a third-time visitor, my credentials verified by my second return, it was my suggestion to choose a le Carré novel as the book of the month. I'd read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy decades earlier, but the plot had left me bewildered by its elaboration and nuances. I thought another chance to read le Carré along with others might help. On this occasion, the members choose le Carré's first novel, which, in hindsight, is the best place to begin, and I may say well worth the re-visit. Now I could write, like many reviews I've read, that Call for the Dead reads more like a murder mystery detective story than a spy novel, and I'd agree. Still, there is probably no better way to cut your teeth as a fledgeling author than getting too close to your profession, but close enough to demonstrate that you're insightful. Call for the Dead introduces us to the inimitable George Smiley, an intelligence officer whose wife, Lady Ann has just left him and who has a taste for lesser German poets, as well as other equally obscure characters in persuasion and origin. There are a plethora of storyline reviews elsewhere so that I won't tire you with the details. However, I wondered whether Smiley was in part an escape for le Carré from being a mere David Cornwall: a British Intelligence Service officer with real anecdotes and passion for his work, but bored by the monotony of regular everyday life as a spy. A flight to the "academic excursions into the mystery of human behaviour, disciplined by the practical application of his own deductions," to quote le Carré of George Smiley. The fact that David Cornwall went on publishing under the pseudonym of John le Carré for over fifty years, a testament to the fact that we all have to start somewhere. And master spies (and authors) do require finesse and subterfuge!
Short but complete
Following his sad death I decided to fill in the gaps of my Le Carré reading and so started with this, his first book
It’s just perfect, with all his later hallmarks of nuance there from the beginning