As a young man I was not an avid reader. John Le Carre was one of my entry points into literature. Like Graham Greene, Mr. Carre’s wrote atypical spy novels. They were quiet character studies that dissected organizations. In “A Legacy of Spies” Mr. Carre provides a retrospective look at some of the principal characters of “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, two of his most well-known works. It is a timely Cold War novel, as the world is becoming chillier.
Peter Guillam, one of George Smiley’s loyal operatives, is forced out of retirement by the young operatives at the British Secret Service (the “Circus”) who are looking to cast blame for the actions taken during that period. As a closed community, they are a family of misfits, with plenty of blemishes. As in other works by Mr. Carre, his portrayal of the secret service is one of slow deliberation, often with unplanned consequences. The novel is laid out like a lawyer preparing for a prosecution. Mr. Guillam is to fill in the blanks in the records that are revealed throughout the book. He is an unwilling participant.
The novel has a slower pace, as it principally is a character study. It is not the best work he has written, but is a worthwhile read if you are a fan.