Monday, June 18, 2018

John le Carré - A Legacy of Spies

I was looking forward enormously to A Legacy of Spies and re-read its prequel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold in preparation. That book is a near perfect spy thriller, the dirty, backstabbing reality of Cold War spying in the drab, grey of 1950s England and East Germany. By contrast A Legacy of Spies is set in a world that seems like New Labour - full of steel and glass, opulence and smartly dressed professionals. But its a superficial modernity. The reality for the spies is still one of betrayal and backstabbing, loneliness and violence - but now they are even more scrutinised by a 21st century bureaucracy that pretends to incomprehensibility when faced with the methods of previous decades.

The legacy of the title is the fall out from a long forgotten spy operation undertaken in the first novel, supervised by Control, Smiley and the narrator of Legacy Peter Guillam. Guillam is uncooperative in MI6's investigation into those events which has been sparked by the return of the son of the British agent who died in the operation, who is suing for wrongful death. Guillam is trying to protect both his legacy and that of his friend and mentor George Smiley. Tied up with all of this is the larger betrayal that MI6 experienced in the aftermath of the first book.

The plot is convoluted, though the reality is that little happens. Guillam twists and turns and reveals little, but spends a lot of time thinking through the rights and wrongs of his own past and the Service. Rather than being a novel in itself it felt to me more like the author was tying up some lose ends for his fans by referencing all the events that they've come to cherish. It's not a bad novel, but its not the greatest and I found the ending very flat. It's not Le Carré at his best, but if you're reading it, that wil be because you've read all the others and you'll already know this by the time you open the book.

Related Reviews

Le Carré - The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Le Carré - A Small Town in Germany
Le Carré - The Looking Glass War
Le Carré- A Murder of Quality

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