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.

9 thoughts on “R.I.P. – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré”

  1. I'm so glad to have stumbled across your wonderful blog. Consider me a new follower. 🙂

    As far as I'm concerned, this is certainly one of the best novels in the spy/thriller genre. John le Carre sets the bar really high for himself and everything else that I have read by him has paled in comparison. If you are interested in checking out another great work in the genre, I highly recommend "Our Man in Havana" by Graham Greene, which was written a few years before le Carre's novel and was certainly an influence.


  2. I read this a few years ago and though I found it difficult to get into, I really enjoyed it in the end. (I should point out that spy/thriller/political books usually aren't in my TBR pile, so my opinion doesn't have a lot of knowledge of the genre behind it.) Strangely enough, I tend to like the films that are made from le Carre and Greene, which makes me want to read further in the genre. For example, I really want to see the new film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but really should read the novel first!

    Happy reading to you!


  3. Jason C. – I haven't really read any sort of spy novels till now; but seeing as how I loved this, I will now. I wanted to read Le Carre's Tin, Tailor, Soldier, Spy before I watch the movie. And I have heard of Graham Greene of course, so thanks for the suggestion, I'll have to see if I can get my hands on this book. Thanks for stopping by!

    Kate – It took time getting used to the writing, but I still liked it. Oh, yes, I am planning to read the novel before I watch the movie too, if I ever get to it; which seeing my huge TBR pile seems kind of impossible at the moment. Anyway, glad you stopped by!


  4. Kailana – I know, it is one of my favourite covers of this book; the cover perfectly describes the book, so I'm guessing you'll like it too if you read it!


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