The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Book - 2001
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On its publication In 1964, John le Carre's The Spy Who Came In from the Cold forever changed the landscape of spy fiction. Le Carre combined the inside knowledge of his years in British intelligence with the skills of the best novelists to produce a story as taut as it is twisting, unlike any previously experienced, which transports us back to the shadowy years in the early 1960s when the Berlin Wall went up and the Cold War came to life. When the last agent under his command is killed in Berlin, Alec Leamas, weary and disillusioned, is called back to London by his spymaster, Control, hoping to finally come in from the cold. Instead, Control has one last assignment for Leamas: to adopt the role of a disgraced agent and return behind the Iron Curtain as bait to bring down the head of East German intelligence. Layering plot over plot, le Carre reveals a dirty game of betrayal and assumed identity in which individuals are expendable and neither side is honorable.
Publisher: New York : Pocket Books, 2001, c1963
ISBN: 9780743442534
Characteristics: x, 212 p. ; 22 cm


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1965 Edgar Award winner

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Jul 28, 2019

Le Carre at his best.

Nov 03, 2018

Did not finish-too many characters!

Aug 11, 2018

Leamas’ network of spies is destroyed. He is called back from Berlin to London where his boss, Control, wonders if Leamas is “burned out.” Leamas spirals into poverty, alcoholism and anger, ending in imprisonment for an assault. Friendless, Leamas is approached by East German counterintelligence. Now Leamas leaves the cold to enter the deep freeze of the apostate, the betrayer of his past life and his country. But in this novel, things as they appear are not things as they are.

The idea of the ‘cold’ is the central one in this novel. “A man permanently isolated in deceit” lives in the cold, according to Leamas. ‘Control’ says to Leamas, “We have to live without sympathy, don’t we? … We act it to one another, all this hardness; but we aren’t like that really. I mean … one can’t be out in the cold all the time; one has to come in from the cold…”. So the cold is the place where spies live a duplicitous life, apart from and alienated from others, acting a role, using others as instruments of a state’s political goals. The concept of the ‘cold’ links to the novel’s love interest where the hard-bitten Leamas actually connects with another person. The novel documents betrayal after betrayal, they are piled up, one on top another.

Oct 15, 2017

Needing help with the vocabulary of the period, I Googled the phrase  "Pudeur Anglaise", and landed on a glossary for the novel. The website is called Book Drum, a great resource, with many useful features.

Dec 19, 2016

another excellent one from John Le Carre. Feeling sad for the ending, that's what the cold war done to human, use humanity to kill and hurt.

LPL_IanS Sep 30, 2016

First time spy novel reader here. I loved it. I thought Le Carre's prose was excellent. The plot was superbly constructed. And the book was highly entertaining. It has a somewhat slow start, and I agree with another reader that at times the mixture of Cold War, spy, and English jargon could leave me feeling a little lost. That said, it's a spy book! I don't need to be one step ahead of the story at all moments.

I have a feeling this is book that will stick with me for a while. I highly recommend it.

Feb 08, 2016

Great plot and great writing. This is a classic spy novel for those who like this genre.

Jun 29, 2014

My first John Le Carré book, and definitely not my last. It's one of the best spy books I've read, although it seemed as if the main character didn't have a plan until about halfway through the book. Great plot twist at the end, and ultimately the book ended the way it should.

Indigo_Cobra_8 Mar 23, 2013

I had read many glowing reviews about this book and had been excited to read it. Maybe I'm just not suited to the whole spy genre, but I didn't enjoy this as much I thought I would. The first chapter drew me in, but the rest of the book held considerably less action and was more conversational/interrogational. The twist near the end caught me, and I enjoyed the last few chapters, but overall, I found the book a bit dull.

May 08, 2012

le Carre's best? Possibly. It's hard to say. I'd watched the movie prior to reading the book (I know, it's a sin), so the ending wasn't as powerful as it should have been. An interesting in-between point for le Carre. His later novels become more fragmentary because of flash backs. In this one, you can see how he starts to break away from straight-forward storytelling, but it isn't a terrible amount of work to keep with the plot.

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FavouriteFiction Oct 14, 2009

Alec Leamas, a British agent in early Cold War Berlin, is sent on a difficult mission. He is asked to play a disgraced agent, a target of ridicule, and therefore be able to infiltrate deep into communist territory.


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Jun 29, 2014

"Leamas watched him take a cigarette from the box on the table, and light it. He noticed two things: that Peters was left-handed, and that once again he had put the cigarette in his mouth with the maker's name away from him, so that it burns first. It was a gesture Leamas liked: it indicated that Peters, like himself, had been on the run." pg.73


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