Erik's Reviews > The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carré
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Nov 16, 11

bookshelves: has-good-review, made-into-movie

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is basically a book in which two men sit in a room and talk with each other. Really, that's it. And while John le Carre's good at writing dialogue, he's not -that- good.

Don't get me wrong; the book is tightly written, a thriller, a mystery, a page-turner. It's written with authority. It had a definite Cold War aura to it. But it was just... hollow?

Perhaps my response to the book suffers since I read it immediately after finishing The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Both have very bleak tones, both are written rather simply and to the point. And yet the Book Thief managed to take that bleak tone, the grim palette of war and suffering, and paint something beautiful, something inspiring and grand. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is bleak bleak bleak and then ends on the bleakest note of all.

Do you see my criticism? Without an inner light, a deeper message, an attempt to reach into the heart of mankind and reveal something mysterious, the book's quality rests solely on its writing mechanics. Mechanics which, frankly, are flawed:

The "mystery" was, at least to me, almost patently obvious. It was also absurd. Without giving away any spoilers, a spy agency would not risk its greatest asset on what basically amounts to a gamble on human nature. It was a real shame, for a book otherwise so carefully realistic.

The entire thing, the whole shebang, both the mystery and the character's motivation, rests on a love relationship which was hardly believable. Liz, an "attractive" twenty-something Communist librarian, is supposed to fall madly and deeply in love with the protag Alec, a mean fifty-year-old drunk who hates communists. Uh. What? Thus the parts where Liz talks about her love of Alec (and vice versa) come across the cheapest sort of deus ex machina soap opera melodrama. ...That was a beautiful rhyme.

With all that said, I did give the book 3 stars. It's good, just not as good as I wanted it to be.
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Jason Review sums up my feelings on the book.


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