Feb 14th, 2012

Book Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

By Nick Robison

I picked up this book after seeing a trailer for the new movie that’s been out in the states but just now opened in Denmark. It looked intriguing and the Allen County libraries had a copy I could borrow for the Kindle (which I, in turn, borrowed from my Mom and may never return) and so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Book CoverWhenever you pick up a book based off a movie trailer it’s pretty much hit or miss. In this case it’s unfortunately a miss. The major premise revolves around George Smiley as he recruited back into ‘The Circus’ to help flush out a Russian mole at the height of the cold war. I’m assuming ‘The Circus’ is MI-6 as the book is set primarily in London, and the surrounding areas, if not I’m totally lost. In some ways the book works backwards, most of the ‘action’ is in the form of personal recounting or reading old files and as the story progresses you and Smiley, together, are gathering the clues and slowly discovering what the circus is and who the mole might be.

That is, however, part of the problem. You’re never given enough background to really understand why it’s so important that they find the mole, why is the circus so great? Why is it worth saving? Why should be interested in these characters? Why is everyone so misshapen? (If you read the book you’ll discover the validity of the last question) While Le Carre´ does an admirable job building a story through non-traditional plots devices he struggles to put together a well paced and compelling tale. Many of the sections of the book felt disjointed and thrown-together and the end result left many loose ends and a sense of waste with the reader, as if the ending wasn’t worth having.

While I’m normally a huge fan of the spy novels and international thrillers (hello Tom Clancy) in this case I was really glad I got the book from the library instead of buying it. To me, it just wasn’t worth it. If you’re looking for some great spy literature, look no further then anything by Tom Clancy like ‘Patriot Games’ or ‘Red Storm Rising’, you won’t be disappointed.

Verdict: Pass