Western literature and movies of the 20th century are obsessed with the Second World War and its fallout The Cold War. An unjustly large proportion of the works deal with these subjects and I intentionally avoid them. But even I could not avoid finally picking up a John le Carre novel. I had liked what I saw in the movie adaptation of his Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and I picked up The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
This slim novel is part of a George Smiley series and is centered around a burnt out British spy named Alec Leamas. All the spies under the command of Leamas in East Germany are methodically killed by a ruthless new Communist spy head named Mundt. Leamas is pulled back to England, loses his job in disgrace and ends up working at a library. Turns out that this is all a front by MI6 to make him an enticing defector for the East German side, a great chess game to take down Mundt.
I had not read a le Carre novel before and I can see that his high praise is well deserved. Since he was an actual spy during the Cold War, his writing is supposedly very real, and it seemed so to me. The plot in this one is quite an intriguing puzzle and kept me up on the edge. To his credit le Carre never lets go of the moral implications of the loss of life in this secret war. When Leamas defects, he is pulled deep inside East Germany, with not a single British or American spy to help him. Finding out if and how he succeeds is a thrill not to be missed.