The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre

This was a fascinating story of a cat and mouse game in which it is never quite clear who is the cat and who is the mouse. It blows to bits the James Bond mythology of what spying is about: it is a dirty, dirty business, and the people who engage in it are hardly the kind of people you would want to have over for tea. I was a bit put off by Le Carre’s introduction of the protagonist, the misanthropic drunk Leamis, crusty, surly, and actually quite stupid, hardly the kind of man to put his life on the line for King and Country. When an East German spy asks him what his philosophy is, what motivates him to carry on the fight that he has dedicated his life to, it is clear that he has never seriously thought about this. It makes the ending all the more tragic and at the same time all the more just. There are layers upon layers of deception and conspiracy that keep peeling away until you’re left dumbfounded at how you, like the main characters, have been taken for a ride. A masterpiece of the genre.

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