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A Small Town in Germany

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  4,357 Ratings  ·  202 Reviews
John le Carré's classic novels deftly navigate readers through the intricate shadow worlds of international espionage with unsurpassed skill and knowledge, and have earned him unprecedented worldwide acclaim.
A man is missing. Harting, refugee background, a Junior Something in the British Embassy in Bonn. Gone with him are forty-three files, all of them Confidential or abo
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Paperback, 338 pages
Published November 2008 by Scribner (first published October 1st 1968)
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The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
Espionage
772 books — 855 voters
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Hunt for Red October by Tom ClancyThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
Best Spy Novels
930 books — 1,635 voters


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Community Reviews

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Lynne King
Jun 24, 2013 Lynne King rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, germany
I’ve read quite a few of John le Carré’s books and the only one that I didn’t particularly enjoy was “The Constant Gardner” which departed somewhat from his usual spy books. So when I discovered this paperback on a market stall the other week, I decided to purchase it as the blurb on the back looked interesting. After all, this is le Carré and he’s a known quantity and an excellent author.

I started this and initially it appeared to be interesting. The location was good, being Bonn in Germany and
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Σωτήρης  Αδαμαρέτσος
Γραμμένο το 1968, περίοδο της διαπραγμάτευσης στις Βρυξέλλες για την είσοδο της Μ Βρετανίας στην ΕΟΚ (...) στην βρετανική πρεσβεία στην Βόννη, τότε πρωτεύουσα της ΟΔ της Γερμανίας χάνονται κάποιοι φάκελοι απορρήτου και ένας... ελασσων υπάλληλος.
Αν κ συγγραφέας κατασκοπευτικών έργων ο Λε Καρέ γράφει μια νουάρ ιστορία με πολύ παρελθόν κ ανεξερεύνητο παρόν. Με σκηνικό μια Γερμανία που φαίνεται να σέρνεται, πάλι (;;) πίσω από το άρμα ενός πολιτικού ηγέτη του δρόμου... η φαντασία του Λε Καρέ γεννά α
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Helen
Sep 11, 2011 Helen rated it really liked it
Shelves: espionage
No one likes Alan Turner. He's a spycatcher with the British foreign office, and if he's talking to you, your career is probably over. With gleeful ferocity, he tramples across uncrossable boundaries of diplomacy, decency and class.

The year is 1968. The West is mired in the Cold War, the British have lost their empire, young people are rioting all over the globe, the Vietnam War is in full swing, and in Germany, a mysterious and charismatic leader is rising swiftly to power.

Sensitive internatio
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Kimuli
Jun 26, 2013 Kimuli rated it it was amazing
I thought I'd read all of Le Carré's books that I cared to read. I recently discovered this one and it might be my favorite one. Chronologically, it falls between his early mystery novels ("Call for the Dead" and "A Murder of Quality") and the spy novels. It draws from both genres and is better for it. I recommend reading it without reading any reviews because they give too much of the plot away.
Cphe
Feb 10, 2015 Cphe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this far more than I originally thought I would. I started slowly making my way through the George Smiley novels and I'm glad that I decided to try this one as well. Well worth reading simply as a departure to the Smiley novels. Well worth the time.
Lily
Jun 16, 2007 Lily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Le Carre is the grandfather of all spy stories. Although a little slow paced, the story has enough depth to keep you involved. Unfortunately I think the female characters get stranded in typical gender stereotypes and none of them have enough spark to make you think they're anything but filler. However, Carre has great insight into the intelligence community and all the drama rings true.
Patrick
Sep 30, 2008 Patrick rated it really liked it
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed by the ending. However, this is much deeper than a typical Cold War novel. It speaks pointedly to the human condition, and the thoughts and emotions that drive people's actions, particularly when motivated by different things. It's a very good read from that standpoint, but the culmination of the plot left me scratching my head a bit.
Emily
Aug 16, 2016 Emily rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2016
I read the vast majority of this book at a desultory, generally unenthusiastic pace, and I wish I'd known how it would come together at the end, because I would have given it better attention.

The good parts: le Carré's close observation of meetings and interiors (he's sort of like a domestic novelist of the office, among his other interests) and wonderful bits of scene-setting, like this: "It was a day to be nearly free; a day to stay in London and dream of the country. In St. James's Park, the
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Feliks
Jun 22, 2012 Feliks rated it really liked it
Shelves: genre-thrillers
'Shady doings' at the British Embassy in Bonn, Germany. That about sums it up.

This is an odd-item among LeCarre's early works; and it is often overlooked because it appears 'out-of-sequence' --even, 'disrupting' the Smiley saga--and its protagonist seems to have been the one-off appearance of admittedly a rather boring and ineffectual hero, called in to solve a singular mystery, and then never heard from again. One wonders why LeCarre wrote this minor drama at all. I confess that I myself have
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Mary
Apr 17, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing
Le Carre's books trigger emotion in me. I'm not entirely comfortable with that but I'm hooked. Scratch the surface of his well-rendered cynicism and a meager optimism begrudgingly appears. Yes, we humans can be absolutely horrible to each other, but some of us are not and some of us care. Deeply.

Le Carre's skill at presenting things not quite as they are, while subtly suggesting what is, was and probably will be, delights me. He is neither obvious nor inscrutable. His paints his misanthropy with
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Huw Evans
Aug 22, 2011 Huw Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, spy, thriller
Written before "Tinker, Tailor" and set at the height of the Cold War,a junior official in the West German capital goes missing with a sheaf of confidential material. The junior offical is an emigre and his disappearance could be a massive embarrassment to HMG. The Foreign Office send Alan Turner, a bulldozer of an investigator, who is not prepared to let the niceties of realpolitik get in his quest for the truth. Turner makes no friends, that is not his job, but is unprepared for the complexiti ...more
Brandon Forsyth
This made for great reading on my flight to Germany, but it's undeniable that this is missing some vital element of le Carré's genius. I think the critical flaw is in the character of Turner, the brash investigator sent to resolve the disappearance that kicks off the plot of the book. A lot of readers (and le Carré himself, in the introduction to this edition) will point to how wrong the writer gets the German character and where that society went in the aftermath of the war, but if we cared mor ...more
Jenna
If you want a good spy novel this was superb! Brilliantly plotted, when one of the officer goes missing, but existing artificial effect.......very clever.

Leo Harting works twenty years as Chancery officer was missing, and an investigation was conducted due to the disappearance of the forty odd files that contained the most sensitive materials on high ranking German politicians. The rest are top secret, and Anglo-German agreements:secret treaties, secret codicils to published agreement.

Since, Leo
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Robert Spencer
Apr 05, 2017 Robert Spencer rated it liked it
I'm probably being harsh, as I can't help but subject this to the exacting standards of the rest of le Carre's work. As usual there are moments when the quality of the writing almost makes you want to swoon - just the occasional paragraph of genius that you have to keep alert to in case you don't notice how great it is. But somehow the plot just doesn't have enough punch - maybe there is not enough of a sense of jeopardy, as most of that is invested in a character who we have no direct experienc ...more
MisterFweem
Jan 04, 2010 MisterFweem rated it really liked it
I’ll warn you, it starts slow. But then it takes you screaming down odd twisted paths and leaves you dumped at the end of the line, wholly unsatisfied, but ready to read another book by John le Carre.


There, my one-paragraph review of “A Small Town in Germany,” the first of le Carre’s books I’ve read, following my long-standing policy of reading books that typically come to me through thrift store purchases, outright donations or are discovered being smuggled into the house baked inside loaves of
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Esdaile
Dec 09, 2011 Esdaile rated it it was ok
It was years ago that I read this book but I do remember being extremely disappointed. I think this is Le Carré attempting something which is outside the compass of his abilities as a writer. He cannot explain how any strong personality could rise to power and worse, he has neither intereest nor understanding in the ideas and psychology of the man or woman ambitious for complete power. Also, the book encouraged the weary cliché, fostered unwearingly by East Germany, that the Western republic was ...more
Kev Bartlett
Feb 03, 2016 Kev Bartlett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy


The small town in question is Bonn. A sleepy province down the Rhine from Cologne which, to the bafflement of many, was chosen as the Post War capital of West Germany. A minor British embassy worker, Leo Harting, has disappeared with a significant number of confidential files. Sensing a Soviet mole a spy catcher from the Foreign Office, Alan Turner, is sent to investigate. All whilst set in time when there were genuine concerns the Far-Right could rise again in Germany and ex-Nazis remained free
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Kimmo Sinivuori
Mar 28, 2014 Kimmo Sinivuori rated it it was ok
Once again my quest to like a le Carré novel is proven elusive. All the ingredients for a great book are there. The setting is Germany at a point in time when for most, like the British, the wounds have healed but for some they are still open. The place is Bonn that brings memories to those who grew up during the cold war and the actors are diplomats engaged in the first and failed effort to bring Britain into the EEC. And the mood is anti-American with the students preparing for the mad year of ...more
Bill
Oct 07, 2010 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy, adventure
This was John le Carre's 5th novel and one that did not feature his most famous spy master, George Smiley. The main character is Alan Turner, a Foreign Office employee who has been sent to the British embassy in Bonn to find out what has happened to an embassy employee, Leo Harting, a German national who seems to have disappeared with a number of secret files. This is a tense period in European history, set after WWII, when the Russians are heating up things, Germany seems to be in turmoil, look ...more
Buck Jones
Aug 15, 2013 Buck Jones rated it it was ok
I was surprised by how much I disliked this spy novel by the genre genius, John Le Carre. The story takes place over the course of a week, in Bonn, the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, during the midst of a series of anti-British demonstrations over the UK's attempt to join the Common Market (predecessor to the EU).

A "fixer" is sent from London's central HQ to find out what happened to a missing British embassy worker and the files he may or may not have stolen. The fixer, Alan Turne
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Mike
Jan 22, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing
Re-reading these earlyish Le Carre thrillers after some 30 years has been extremely rewarding. It's hardly controversial to point out that his more recent books, some of which are quite fine, are not exactly great, so I've loved revisiting his work from the 60s and 70s and reminding myself of his enormous strengths as a novelist. This short, fast-moving novel is akin to noir - when a low-level agent from the Bonn office goes missing with a secret file, a special agent is called in from London to ...more
Krista
Jan 01, 2017 Krista rated it it was amazing
Wow! I had to remind myself that I was listening to the time when Britain was fighting to gain access to the Common Market, not Brexit. I had to remind myself that the right-wing movement and charismatic leader was from 1968 not 2016. So many parallels to today's geo-political world and such a good story on top of it.

The reason I read this early work by John Le Carre's is that I was reading his book The Pigeon Tunnel and he referenced this book as the one where embassy life (diplomats and some s
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Darwin8u
Oct 09, 2012 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Throughout most of this early le Carré novel, I was convinced I would probably rate it three stars. It was interesting, but plodded at times. It seemed a little provincial, a bit dated, ended up being historically incorrect, and seemed almost like le Carré was writing a Henry James ghost story more than a le Carré thriller. However, by the end I loved it. The chapter before the Epilogue (a conversation between Turner and Bradfield) was absolutely genius. It was one of the most powerful chapters ...more
Dawn
Oct 17, 2010 Dawn rated it liked it
My second least favorite of his books (the least being, of course, A Naïve and Sentimental Lover). The dialogue was forced, unbelievable; the only sympathetic character never made an entrance; and the whole premise of a shadowy ex-Nazi being able to come within reaching distance of post-WWII power in Germany stretched credulity far beyond the breaking point. I gave it three stars only because John Le Carre's prose is incomparable.
Bettie☯
mp3 workaday

#41 TBR Busting 2013

Mislaid the file - it will turn up again when I'm not looking for it!
Sheila Roberts
Nov 15, 2012 Sheila Roberts rated it it was ok
I realize that John le Carre is an acclaimed spy novelist but I have to confess I struggled to finish this book. The pace was incredibly slow and Mr. le Carre introduced a lot of characters to me in a very short time. Maybe I'm simply not his audience.
Gramarye
Solid classic Le Carré, particularly in capturing the claustrophobic feeling of an embassy community on the front lines of the Cold War. But why are almost all Le Carré women incapable of thinking about something without having it lead back to sex?
Breena Welker Jenson
I'm currently living in this "small town in Germany" so this was a fun read. A bit of a time machine to the post -WWII Bonn.
Ruth Booth
Jan 12, 2017 Ruth Booth rated it liked it
You know that first day in a new job, when you haven't got a clue what anyone is talking about. They use words and acronyms that mean nothing to you, so everything becomes a jumble. But over time you start to pick things up and eventually reach a decent level of understanding. Well that is what reading this book is like. Except I only felt like I had been in the job one week before I finished the story. So I still was getting it all!
John Le Carre was obviously a master of his craft and knew his
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Larou
Dec 27, 2012 Larou added it
I’m still making my way through John le Carré’s oeuvre in chronological order, and so far it has been a surprisingly interesting and enjoyable journey. My most recent stop, A Small Town in Germany, is no exception to this, and once again it is a much more complex affair than I would have expected – like previous works by le Carré, not so much in regard to the plot (which one would expect to be intricate in a spy novel) as to the quiet, perspicacious writing, whose very precision often makes it s ...more
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excelent 1 11 Aug 27, 2012 04:55AM  
  • Funeral in Berlin
  • Epitaph for a Spy
  • The Quiller Memorandum
  • The Miernik Dossier (Paul Christopher #1)
  • Agent in Place
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John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), is an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré has resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than 40 years, where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land's End.

See also: John le Carré - Wikipedia
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