Review: A Legacy of Spies – John le Carré

A Legacy of Spies John le CarréMy version: Hardback
Genre: Fiction Spies, England
Viking, Penguin Random House
First published: 2017
Bought, signed

From the cover:

Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, has retired to his family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The Reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London are to be scrutinised by a generation with no memory of the Cold War. Somebody must be made to pay for innocent blood once spilt in the name of the greater good.

Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own story, John le Carré has given us a novel of superb and enduring quality.

There is an accompanying Speesh Reads Pinterest Board for A Legacy of Spies. Lots of pictures of places and people in the book

Probably not a Thriller in the way our American cousins would think of, when they think ‘Thriller.’ But thrilling to us, if seeing John le Carré return to the Circus, Smiley and Peter Guillam -always so much more than a side-kick for me in the earlier books, and so wonderful to see him getting a book of his own now. So, much more actually thrilling than a whole suitcase of Brad Thor. Oh, and I probably should add “if you remember the TV series with (Sir) Alec Guinness as ‘Smiley,’ and Michael Jayston as ‘Guillam'” Which you do, maybe even without knowing it. That’s who you’re seeing in your head while reading A Legacy of Spies, remember that.

A Legacy of Spies John le Carré signatureProbably as a result of his advancing years, this is John le Carré looking back on his immaculately created, curated and choreographed Spy World. Peter Guillam is minding his own business, deliberately, in the middle of French nowhere, when he gets a letter with an offer he can’t refuse. Not if he wants to keep his pension, probably his life, that is. The Circus – not the Circus any more of course – is under threat. His memories are under threat, his memories are wanted to help create that threat. So he has to reluctantly return. But it’s a return to a very different world to the one he left. And that, is probably one of the most satisfying things about the book – in my estimation that is – that John Le C, seems to be coming to terms with the fact that the world he created in his books, as with the real world of spying he lived and wrote about, has changed. Reasons have changed, the people have (obviously) changed, their backgrounds have changed. That he seems to be gripping that, for me was wonderful and I admire him a lot for it.

From that kind of start point, then it is a nostalgia fest for us the reader of that generation. Like having a chat with an old friend and reminiscing. “You remember that time when…” “What was it he said now?” “What was his name now?” “Oh, yes” and most of all in A Legacy of Spies “Really…you don’t say, well I never, but of course!”

It goes without saying it is exceptionally well written and plotted like a Swiss watch, and moves twice as smoothly. You maybe need to have read some of the previous Smiley books, or a John le Carré to get the full excitement, cliff-hanging suspense and over all warm glow from it, but I can still imagine you could just as well dive in here.

I can’t imagine a world without Guillam and Smiley though – so I’m going to go back and re-read all the others.

You can buy A Legacy of Spies from

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