A Legacy of Spies ★★★★☆
John le Carré
Genre(s) | Thriller, Espionage
Goodreads Ratings | 3.92
Humpo Show Rating | 4.00
Peter Guillam, right-hand-man of spymaster George Smiley, has retired to a farm in Brittany. Out of the blue, he is summoned to London by his former employers – the British Secret Service – to answer questions about a Cold War operation that has reared its head due to the current generation wanting answers and repercussions.
John le Carre’s writing, as always, is a delight to read. He manages to weave the past and present into a novel that is full of intrigue, mystery and ambiguity. The intricacies of the spy games, the recruitment, the interrogations and the methodical way in which the secret services operate is absolutely fascinating. The reports, testimonies and flashbacks all combined to craft a story for us readers, rather than Bunny and Laura of the modern day service tasked with getting the information from Guillam. The story of espionage, information gathering, romance, death, betrayal and loyalty makes for compelling reading.
If I told you that the book is largely an account of modern day bureaucracy, the moral contradictions involved in espionage work during the Cold War era and the place of those historical dealings in the modern world, you would probably give the book a pass. However, le Carré manages to contrast the moral difficulties of the past and the current state of the British Secret Service in interesting style. I was holding my breath for large parts – the questioning from the lawyers and whenever Guillam would delve back in to his memories of Operation Windfall.
A Legacy of Spies is an absorbing read – it helps greatly if you have read le Carré’s masterpiece The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, as the events that take place relate to Alec Leamas’ mission. The repercussions of Cold War spy games in the modern world and whether they were worth the price paid is an interesting topic that is explored really well by le Carré.
The Humpo Show | Richard