THRILLER OF THE WEEK
A Legacy Of Spies John le Carré Viking £20
There is much excitement surrounding the publication of the new le Carré, as it marks the return of his enduring creation, the spymaster George Smiley, after decades in the shadows. Alongside the anticipation, though, there’s also trepidation: will the old master have something new to add, or does he risk tarnishing his own legacy?
So it’s a relief to start reading and realise at once that this really is vintage le Carré. The set-up is simple enough: Smiley’s loyal lieutenant Peter Guillam, now retired to a farm in Brittany, is summoned back to London by his old employers. The Service is being sued by the children of some of those who died in the Cold War operations.
The names of two of those dead will be familiar to all le Carré fans – the tragic spy Alec Leamas and the woman he loved, Elizabeth Gold.
At the time, their deaths were seen as heroic sacrifices in a crucial global conflict, but now a new generation sees them as simply grounds for compensation claims.
And so Guillam is being asked to recall and to justify the schemes of half a century ago, those that led up to the events recorded in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
Guillam is loyal to the last and tries to keep his secrets hidden, but it’s only Smiley who can truly clear up this mess, and he’s nowhere to be found.
Moving skilfully between the mortal dangers of East Germany in the Cold War years and the legal terrors of contemporary London, A Legacy
Of Spies is a compelling re-creation of the great era of British espionage.
And ultimately it poses one simple, essential question – was the game worth the human cost?