A Legacy of Spies (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

If the very concept of a new Smiley novel by John Le Carre isn't enough to make you pick up A Legacy of Spies - and, really, it should be - then the author photo on the jacket might do the trick. Here's Le Carre, sitting at a writing desk, writing. In longhand. With a pen. On paper. It's a remarkable photo, redolent of 50+ years of publishing history, and completely appropriate to the book.

Legacy of Spies is a Smiley novel, firmly set in the world of and expanding upon the territory covered by The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It's narrated, however, by Peter Guillam, Smiley's main assistant in Tinker Tailor and other novels. [You may also remember him as being played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the 2011 movie.] Guillam, who appears to be somewhere in his 80's as the book opens and is moderately happily retired, is summoned back to London. His old agency has been sued by survivors of the spies involved in Spy Who Came in from the Cold. What does Guillam know or remember of this? He's interrogated by the brilliantly named and described Bunny, Bunny's a character you know instantly you're going to hate, and quite rightly so, too. As Guillam at first tries to bluff and lie, he's constantly called out. Eventually, almost in self-defense, he's forced to go through years of memoranda, transcripts, and letters. And each one triggers a memory.

Spies is very much a reflective book, a looking back on a long career. Was it honorable? Guillam certainly hopes so, but without confidence. While Smiley's appearance is little more than a cameo - which makes sense, since I'd guess he's somewhere around 110 years old - in a real sense Smiley is more present in this book than he ever has been before. Spies revolves around him - the actions he took, the results he caused. He's nearly overwhelming in his absence. It's a remarkable portrait of power, and A Legacy of Spies itself is a powerful, completely compelling, almost tragic book. I can hardly wait to reread it.

— george



The undisputed master returns with a riveting new book--his first Smiley novel in more than twenty-five years

Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications.

Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own intense story, John le Carr has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In a story resonating with tension, humor and moral ambivalence, le Carr and his narrator Peter Guillam present the reader with a legacy of unforgettable characters old and new.

About the Author

John le Carré was born in 1931 and attended the universities of Bern and Oxford. He taught at Eton and served briefly in British intelligence during the Cold War. For the last fifty years he has lived by his pen. He divides his time between London and Cornwall.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780735225114
ISBN-10: 0735225117
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: September 5th, 2017
Pages: 272
Language: English