I quite liked the first John le Carre book I read recently (The spy who came in from the cold), so I have decided to read a few more of his spy thrillers. Call for the Dead is his first book, where the eponymous George Smiley is introduced. The edition I read had a beautiful introduction, written for this later edition by the author, detailing his actual spy work and how he got into writing. This alone is worthy enough to pick up this slim novella.
The book begins with a new publicity-seeking boss at Britain's spy machinery, who upsets folks like Smiley who are at the end of their career. At this moment, a series of mysterious events takes place. Smiley interviews an old Communist working in the Foreign Office cause someone complained about him. That man turns up dead in his house the next day, a case of suicide with a note left behind. Everything is accounted for and the case is almost being tied up when Smiley receives a pre-scheduled call at the man's house from the telephone exchange that cannot be explained. Following that thread leads him to unraveling a spy web run by the East German intelligence in London.
As always, le Carre is just a great writer. The stodgy slow-moving bureaucracy of the British intelligence and the very-real depictions of how actual spy networks are embedded are delicious to consume. This is the sort of novel I prefer, just a handful of characters and lots of intrigue. Though this is a very short novel, it still slows down and lags a bit in the middle. Minor quibbles about what is a great nail-biting read that nicely ties up all your suspicions by the end.