Alec Leamas is tired. It's the 1960s, he's been out in the cold for years, spying in Berlin for his British masters, and has seen too many good agents murdered for their troubles. Now Control wants to bring him in at last - but only after one final assignment.
He must travel deep into the heart of Communist Germany and betray his country, a job that he will do with his usual cynical professionalism. But when George Smiley tries to help a young woman Leamas has befriended, Leamas's mission may prove to be the worst thing he could ever have done.
In le Carré's breakthrough work of 1963, the spy story is reborn as a gritty and terrible tale of men who are caught up in politics beyond their imagining.
With a new introduction by William Boyd and an afterword by Le Carré himself.
Superbly constructed, with an atmosphere of chilly hell
The best spy story I have ever read
The master storyteller ... has lost none of his cunning
I have re-read The Spy Who Came In From The Cold over and over again since I first encountered it in my teens, just to remind myself how extraordinary a work of fiction can be.
One of those very rare novels that changes the way you look at the world. Unflinching, highly sophisticated, superb.
His death this week marked the end of a career which produced internationally acclaimed novels in every decade from the 1960s onwards. Le Carré’s work was enjoyed by readers and critics alike and adapted multiple times for film and television, making him one of the most celebrated and influential authors of modern times. But where to start if you’re new to this work? Here is our starter for ten.
Alongside Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Shannon, Florence Pugh stars in The Little Drummer Girl, the latest adaptation of John le Carré’s thrilling novel of espionage and betrayal. Here she reads le Carré’s description of the character that she herself plays in the BBC series.