Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
In le Carré's 24th novel, agents from the British Secret Service, with little memory of the Cold War, summon John Guillam to London to justify past misdemeanors he and his intelligence colleagues committed during the time period of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, including the cover-up of covert activities, the death of innocent people, and the endless trail of unaccounted expenditures. Believing that this particular era was marked by an ethos of a surveillance society run amok, the agents pursue a blame game: history speaks-heads roll, regardless of the consequences. Guillam recalls, in great detail, many past operations with his fellow agents, specifically his mentor, George Smiley (last seen in 1991's The Secret Pilgrim). However, revisiting old times under these circumstances conjures feelings of not only nostalgia but also frustration, humiliation, and outrage as a new generation throws back the past in Guillam's face. VERDICT Le Carré incorporates many layers of meaning and numerous memorable characters into this intense story that pulses with tension, humor, and moral ambivalence. Smiley fans will be lining up for this one. [See Prepub Alert, 3/8/17.]-Jerry P. Miller. Cambridge, MA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Last seen in 1991's The Secret Pilgrim, George Smiley returns in this stunning spy novel from MWA Grand Master le Carré, though it's Peter Guillam, Smiley's devoted assistant from MI6, who takes center stage. Guillam, who's retired to Brittany, is summoned to London to answer questions about allegations of malfeasance in Windfall, an old operation involving a particularly enthusiastic East German source who needed exfiltration to England. The case has reared up because a couple of descendants of Cold War casualties are threatening an expensive and public legal action against the British government. The story of Windfall comes out through interrogations, old files, and Guillam's memories. The result is both a riveting reprise of the Smiley novels and a new articulation of le Carré's theme: spying is as morally bankrupt as the ideologies it serves. Readers familiar with le Carré will recognize allusions everywhere; those who aren't won't be left out, given the power of the storytelling and le Carré's inimitable prose. He can convey a character in a sentence, land an emotional insight in the smallest phrase-and demolish an ideology in a paragraph. Agent: Jonny Geller, Curtis Brown. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Longtime le Carré readers have noticed for years the disconnect between the early novels, in which George Smiley, despite his overwhelming sense of moral ambiguity, never stopped believing in the necessity of espionage, and the later novels, in which the intelligence business has been poisoned from within. What, we've often wondered, would the stoop-shouldered Smiley make of today's world? Finally, le Carré gives us the answer, bringing back Smiley to, in effect, stand trial in absentia as the British Secret Service launches a retrospective investigation of Operation Windfall, the events of which were detailed in le Carré's breakthrough novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963).Smiley himself only appears briefly at the end of this tale, leaving his loyal assistant, Peter Guillam, to carry the water through a series of demeaning interviews with the service's new breed of ass-covering flunkies, all on high alert when the threat of legal action erupts. That's not Peter's only problem: the son of Alec Leamas, the spy whose attempt to come in from the cold ended at the Berlin Wall, wants to extract a pound of flesh from Guillam's aging hide. The real focus here, though, is on the past, as Guillam remembers the events of Windfall and its aftermath, giving the ass-coverers one version while agonizing over what really happened and pondering the ultimate Cold War ambiguity: How much of our human feeling can we dispense with in the name of freedom, would you say, before we cease to feel either human or free? Those who have followed le Carrè's career will relish the opportunity to revisit that enduring conundrum. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Spurred by publicity proclaiming the return of George Smiley, spy-novel devotees won't want to miss this one.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
After having turned from his peerless chronicles of George Smiley and his fellow spies to the tale of his own life (The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life, 2016), le Carr returns to put yet another spin on the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963).Looking back from half a century later, Peter (ne Pierre) Guillam resolves to tell the truth of how his senior colleague Alec Leamas met his death along with his lover, Elizabeth Gold, that fatal day at the Berlin Wall. More than an old man's memories prompt this valediction. When Peter, long retired from the British Intelligence Service to a Brittany farm, is summoned back to London, the Service's chief lawyer, a man who introduces himself only as Bunny, informs him that Christoph Leamas, Alec's bastard son, has discovered Liz's daughter, Karen, and made common cause with her, threatening a lawsuit against the Service and correspondingly ruinous publicity for leading their parents to their deaths through misdirection, falsehood, and professional betrayal. Many of the documents that might help explain the circumstances, Bunny notes with asperity, have gone suspiciously missing; what troubles Peter even more is the documents that survive, which root Alec's and Liz's fatal shootings not only in Alec's long-known battle of wits against Stasi Deputy Head Hans Dieter Mundt, but also Alec's well-concealed and institutionally unauthorized attempt to smuggle out of East Germany his most recent supplier of information, Doris Gamp (codenamed Tulip), the put-upon assistant to senior Stasi official Dr. Emmanuel Rapp who's been passing on photographs of classified documents her husband, ambitious Stasi functionary Lothar Quinz, has brought home. Any reader who knows le Carr's earlier work, and quite a few who don't, will assume that any attempt to second-guess the mandarins of the Service will backfire. The miracle is that the author can revisit his best-known story and discover layer upon layer of fresh deception beneath it. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.