A Legacy of Spies

John le Carré. Viking, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2511-4
Last seen in 1991’s The Secret Pilgrim, George Smiley returns in this stunning spy novel from MWA Grand Master le Carré, though it’s Peter Guillam, Smiley’s devoted assistant from MI6, who takes center stage. Guillam, who’s retired to Brittany, is summoned to London to answer questions about allegations of malfeasance in Windfall, an old operation involving a particularly enthusiastic East German source who needed exfiltration to England. The case has reared up because a couple of descendants of Cold War casualties are threatening an expensive and public legal action against the British government. The story of Windfall comes out through interrogations, old files, and Guillam’s memories. The result is both a riveting reprise of the Smiley novels and a new articulation of le Carré’s theme: spying is as morally bankrupt as the ideologies it serves. Readers familiar with le Carré will recognize allusions everywhere; those who aren’t won’t be left out, given the power of the storytelling and le Carré’s inimitable prose. He can convey a character in a sentence, land an emotional insight in the smallest phrase—and demolish an ideology in a paragraph. Agent: Jonny Geller, Curtis Brown. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/17/2017
Release date: 09/05/2017
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