THRILLER OF THE WEEK

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - BOOKS - John Wil­liams

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?

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