In Call for the Dead
, we’re introduced to the British Secret Service’s George Smiley in the inimitable, clever style of John Le Carre. The author’s Berne University and Oxford education come to the fore on the vehicle of his prose: the learned thriller.
From the moment the rather anti-Bondian Smiley (he’s middle-aged, short, and fat) receives a wake-up call intended for a dead man--one who apparently committed suicide the night before--he suspects that all is not as it seems, and the nearly relentless pace and suspense of the novel are set. I say nearly
because the tempo of the book flagged in one small section toward the end, but otherwise I had no quibble with it.
A pleasant surprise was that in the midst of the tense story, Le Carre deftly conjures humor that acts as a perfect foil to the plot. For example, in showing Smiley’s contempt for a manipulative superior, he writes that the supervisor was “toying with the businessman’s cutlery--paper knife, cigarette box, lighter--the whole chemistry set of official hospitality.”
For those who are familiar with Le Carre’s work but might not yet have discovered this little gem, it’s well worth reading. And for those who might not yet have discovered Le Carre, this is a good place to start.