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Tag: john le carre

The Little Drummer Girl by John le Carre


Reading John le Carre always makes me realize that a good mystery does not need to be fast-paced. In this book, as well, le Carre takes his time introducing us to the different characters and creating an apt background for the story that is about to begin. I like the slow-ish pace, because the writing is engaging and the descriptions are very close to real. That being said, the book is certainly action-packed. The opening scene itself is a carefully arranged bombing that takes place in Berlin, which leads to the events of the book.

As with all his books, le Carre’s characters are introduced and depicted with skill. I really do appreciate the kind of effort the author takes to make his settings seem not only realistic but also relatable to the common readers. The central character in this story is woman named Charlie; the little drummer girl; a mediocre English actress, a flower-child/gypsy of sorts, who is recruited by the Israeli intelligence to track down a Palestenian agent. Her role in this ‘theater of real’ is that of a terrorist’s lover, whose brother they are trying to capture.

“Her name was actually Charmain, but she was known to everyone as “Charlie”, and often as “Charlie the Red” in deference to the colour of her hair and to her somewhat crazy radical stances, which were her way of caring for the world and coming to grips with its injustices. She was the outsider of a rackety troupe of young British acting people who slept in a tumbledown farmhouse half a mile inland and descended to the shore in a shaggy, close-knit family that never broke up. How they had come by the farmhouse in the first place – how they had come to be on the island at all – was a miracle to all of them, though as actors they derived no surprise from miracles.”

The writing, as you can see, is descriptive; and there’s a tinge of dry humour to all of it. In what outwardly seems like just another mystery, the author talks about morality and identity; it’s not a book about political conflicts; but about how these conflicts affect the people. Now I haven’t read any other spy novelists, like Graham Greene or others, so I am no expert on spy stories. But, I do read a lot of mysteries and this is one of the best ones I’ve read.


R.I.P. – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré


As they got to the door, Control put his hand lightly on Leamas’ shoulder.
“This is your last job,” he said. “Then you can come in from the cold.”

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is a 1963 spy/crime thriller novel by John Le Carré. The protagonist is an agent called Alec Leamas, working for the British Intelligence Service (referred to as “the Circus”) in early Cold War Berlin. He gets called back to London by his spy master, Control, who gives him his last, scary assignment.
When I started reading this book, my first spy novel, I had no idea what to expect. With a continually twisting story line, the book is fast and packed with tension. Anything I reveal under “Summary” could be counted as a spoiler; the book is best read directly and is a must read.
The story is genuinely complicated and seems highly probable. This is what a spy’s life is like; each man for himself and no one is a hero. There is no flashiness and no glamour, just dark and touchingly realistic experiences. More than anything else though, the book, coming from an agent himself, sounds a lot like an anecdote, making it all the more involving.
The characters are great, each with a detailed background story. It is not easy to figure out their motives and Le Carré has maintained the suspense throughout the novel; letting us know little at a time, and keeping us wait for more. The relationships are complex but not complicated – the single love story is intricately involved in the plot, leaving many blanks for us to fill. The story is mostly plot based, but it involves some of the strongest characters ever.
The book is not only a thriller, but so much more. I might just have found my new favourite novel.
I wrote this book review as a part of the R.I.P Challenge.