Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (George Smiley #3)” as Want to Read:
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (George Smiley #3)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

(George Smiley #3)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  59,637 ratings  ·  3,640 reviews
In this classic, John le Carre's third novel and the first to earn him international acclaim, he created a world unlike any previously experienced in suspense fiction. With unsurpassed knowledge culled from his years in British Intelligence, le Carre brings to light the shadowy dealings of international espionage in the tale of a British agent who longs to end his career b ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 27th 2001 by Scribner (first published September 1963)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Stephen Sanders You don't have to. The events of his first book, Call for the Dead, are frequently referenced in the Spy Who Came in from the Cold, but are summarized…moreYou don't have to. The events of his first book, Call for the Dead, are frequently referenced in the Spy Who Came in from the Cold, but are summarized so you don't need to have read it. However, it's a solid mystery and a quick read so there's no reason not to read it first. It's also interesting to see how Le Carre's style evolved between the two books.

Le Carre's second novel, A Murder of Quality, on the other hand, is a mediocre mystery novel with a plot that has no relation to this book. Definitely skip it. (less)
Deepesh Tomar Not quite. Fiedler talked normally. As for others, you can simply compare it to how democratic politicians talk while on camera. Most of it is freedom…moreNot quite. Fiedler talked normally. As for others, you can simply compare it to how democratic politicians talk while on camera. Most of it is freedom and Liberty rhetoric and less practicality. They have to sell ideology while on the spot. As for the communists they were always on the spot. One couldn't rise to any kind of position within the party unless they sold communist principles in every word they spoke. Just think about it, unlike capitalism they had to work for a lot with no reward. They had to really believe in their principles to live with themselves and serve their country(less)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
Best Spy Novels
1,031 books — 1,855 voters
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
854 books — 1,083 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  59,637 ratings  ·  3,640 reviews


Filter
 | 
Sort order
Bill  Kerwin
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies-intrigue

I am of two minds now that I have finished The Spy Who Came in From the Cold for the first time: I am irritated at myself for having postponed the pleasure of reading this magnificent book for so many years, and yet I am exhilarated and excited too, marked by this unqualified encounter with greatness.

I certainly was stupid all these years, for I did not read this book—at least in part--because I considered it “just a spy novel” (albeit a superb one), and the “spy novel"—at least since Ian Flemin
...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies, book-to-film
”What do you think spies are: priests, saints, and martyrs? They’re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists, and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives. Do you think they sit like monks in London balancing the rights and wrongs?”

 photo CheckPointCharlie_zps497dbb6e.jpg
Checkpoint Charlie where it all begins.

John Le Carre A.K.A. David John Moore Cornwell while in college started working for MI5 and then later transferred to MI6. He worked as a consul (code for spy)
...more
Lyn
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
A few years ago the Broadway musical “Wicked” came to Nashville and my family and I went to experience this production at the Tennessee Performing Arts Theater. I have actually seen a musical on Broadway (Rock of Ages) and I was impressed. But this was something else entirely. I was awestruck by the talent: the singing, the acting, the stage production. As you may imagine, this was not my usual forte. Oh, I can walk across a room and avoid dragging my knuckles (most days) but for the most part a ...more
Paula Kalin
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of intellectual spy espionage novels
Recommended to Paula by: Susan
Winner of the Edgar and Dagger awards, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a wonderfully written International espionage novel. John Le Carre’s 1963 classic is undoubtedly the most intelligent, dark, and ominous spy novel of it’s time.

Earlier this year I read A Legacy of Spies, written in 2017 by Le Carre, so it made so much sense to dive into his classic Cold War novel as a follow-up. The author, who worked for British Intelligence, brings so much authenticity to his novels.

The book centers ar
...more
Jaline
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2017-completed
This is the novel that placed John Le Carré firmly on the path of fame and fortune. It was his breakthrough novel and 50 years later he was still telling people it had nothing to do with his previous job in the Secret Service; that it was a figment of his imagination only; that had it been based on any facts whatsoever, it would never have been allowed into publication.

None of that registered at the time with the media and critics. And those old rumours still hang in shabby tatters to this day.
...more
Brina
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
A few thoughts that I jotted down. I am on vacation this week so Le Carre was appropriate reading for a trip. A group of buddy readers in the group reading for pleasure is reading through Le Carre’s novels, and I join them from time to time. This installment of George Smiley introduces readers to Alec Leamas, an intelligence officer who Control is convincing to come in from the cold, that is to retire from the service. For any man accustomed to constant action and being on one’s toes, searching ...more
Sanjay Gautam
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A profound book, that surpassed all my expectations. A hell of a ride from the first page till the last word. It's a cold and dark book which is written very intelligently.

It was hailed as one of the best among the world's top classic espionage-books ever written. And, now that I see in hindsight, it has truly surpassed all the spy thrillers, in terms of quality and scope, that I've read before reading this one; and it has now climbed the ladder to reach the top - in my all time favorite list.

H
...more
Candi
"Intelligence work has one moral law—it is justified by results."

After having just met George Smiley for the first time last month, I admit I was a bit disappointed to hear that he would not be featured prominently in this novel. I should not have worried in the least, however, because Alec Leamas as leading man in this book was every bit as compelling a character as was Smiley. If you are looking for a glamorous spy novel, you should look elsewhere. If you are in search of a smart, realistic lo
...more
Kai
“It is said that men condemned to death are subject to sudden moments of elation; as if, like moths in the fire, their destruction were coincidental with attainment.”

Wow, that was boring. And I did not even have any expectations towards it. But calling it "the best spy novel ever", as so many reviewers have done, is a teensy bit far-stretched. I don't have much to say about this book. If you want to read it because you expect action and thrill and incredible escape plans or impossible heists, yo
...more
Matthew
I think if I had lived through more of the Cold War I would have enjoyed this book more. Even though it is not a very long book, I found it somewhat slow. Also, it was a fairly complicated story that had me confused and going back to figure out if I missed something.

I may have given it two stars, but the ultimate point and climax of the story was interesting. I kept having to clear my mind and put myself back into the serious mentality of the Cold War. I am too used to the James Bond/Hollywood
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
Perhaps the greatest spy novel ever, Le Carré has us in the heart of the cold war with a dicey exchange of spies. It is chilling (as cold as the title) and realistic and hair-raising. A true classic!
Steven Godin
Fleming gave it a glamorous touch, Ludlum bought added thrills, but le Carré writes of espionage with a cold starkness that is far more believable and all the better for it. There are no car chases, gadgets, tuxedos, martini's, or large breasted women walking out of the ocean throwing their long locks back over their pretty faces. This is so far away from the exotic travels of 007, mainly taking in the sights of airports, road checkpoints, chilly rooms and deserted streets, le Carré shows a Euro ...more
Stephen
Apr 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
4.5 to 5.0 stars. Okay to begin this review I want to point out that, except for a number of Tom Clancy novels, I have only read a handful of spy thrillers so what impressed me about this book may be pretty typical stuff in the better works of the genre. Also, I have not seen the movie adaptation based and knew nothing about the plot coming in (a condition I highly recommend if you have the chance).

With that introduction made, I LOVED THIS BOOK. For a book published in 1963, once you get past s
...more
Emily May
Dec 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery-thriller

I'd like to start by saying "woah" and various other exclamations of surprise and wonder. This was a book that completely changed the way I view spy novels. My previous prejudice stems from quite an obvious source - Ian Fleming - who never gave me anything much of what I would want to read about or what I even find remotely interesting. Big guns, fast cars, hot girls... surely every teenage boy's wet dream, but not what tends to be my cup of tea.

Fleming, like most writers of spy novels, caters e
...more
Kemper
Oct 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
It’s been over 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell, and as someone who grew up in the 1970s - 80s, reading about dueling Cold War spies gave me a weird nostalgic rush. “The Soviets? East Germans? Damn! We used to HATE those guys!”

In this era where decades of misdeeds by intelligence agencies are common knowledge and the notion of elaborate spy games are widely used fictional plots, it’s a little hard to imagine how groundbreaking this book was back in 1963. James Bond was in full literary swing
...more
Paul Bryant
Nov 17, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I hate everything about spies and spying, whether it's the stupid raised-eyebrow-perfect-martini-black-tied begadgeted supermodel-is-in-the-shower my-name-is-Bollocks, James Bollocks nonsense or the miserable version : everybody can be bought there are no morals any more in this grey world and also it's always fooking raining, my feet hurt, my dog died, I never have sex and I'll meet you near Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin so you can say something incomprehensible to me and I can back to you and t ...more
Agnieszka

Le Carre’s style is quite recognizable. Economical in words, rough, laconic. Intricate plot, agents, double agents, cat-and-mouse game. Feelings of burnout, cynicism and hopelessness. Atmosphere of a constant threat and fatigue, melancholic gray London, claustrophobic East Berlin. Everything written in harsh almost impersonal prose what only deepens the feeling of coldness in human relations.

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold takes place in the time of cold war and we’re following the actions o
...more
Adina
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the last two years I started watching more spy movies/tv-series and also read a spy-thriller by Daniel Silva. I saw two movies based on Le Carré's books (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and A most Wanted Man) which I enjoyed. As a result, I was looking forward to reading one Le Carré book.

This is a different kind of spy novel, a smart one with a brilliant plot and some exciting twists. There are no hot dudes drinking martinis with a women on each leg, shooting every terrorist in sight. Despite t
...more
Diane
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a marvelous spy thriller this is! I can see why it's considered such a classic.

I'm late to the John le Carré book party, but I've been enjoying my time here so far. I loved his memoir The Pigeon Tunnel, and I thought his novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was brilliant. When his latest book, A Legacy of Spies, was released and got positive reviews, I decided to go back and catch up on the George Smiley series.

Smiley plays a minor role in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, but it doesn't matter
...more
Madeline
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: the-list
This is on the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, which means we are to respect it as a Very Important Book and give it a good rating. If I'm being honest, I guess it deserves this ranking. The characters are compelling, the dialogue is good, there are no superfluous scenes, and the whole thing has a creepy and secretive atmosphere that's very compelling.

But I cannot in good conscience give this more than two stars, for the simple reason that, for the majority of the book, I never
...more
Susan
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Alec Leamas is the Head of the West Berlin office, who is recalled back to London after losing another agent. Afraid that he is heading for a desk job, or worse, he is asked to undertake one more mission – the fake defection of a senior British agent to frame an East German operative; Hans-Dieter Mundt, who escaped in “Call of the Dead,” the first George Smiley novel.

In order to bring Leamas to East German attention, the Circus sacks him and Leamas ends up working in a run-down library, where h
...more
Jason Koivu
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, spy
Okay, I'm fully ready to dive into a non-stop Le Carré bender!

These are great spy novels. And these are quality books, period. The man can write. Plus, his experiences in intelligence work paid off HUGE. The intricacies of spy networks and secret government agencies are spread over these pages like caviar and go down like a perfectly aged wine. Shit damn, this is sweet stuff!

Now, before you get all amped up, John le Carré does not write James Bond stuff. There are no car chases and inventive ga
...more
Karl
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edgar_winners
Victor Gollancz first published "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" in London in 1963. Coward-Mccann, Inc. published the first American edition of the novel in New York in 1964.

Set during the political tensions of the Cold War, the revolutionary espionage novel portrays the intelligence services of both Eastern and Western nations as sacrificing morality in the name of national security.
Nigeyb
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I’m working my way through the wonderful world of John le Carré's magnificent George Smiley books, so far in quick succession.

After the slightly anomalous second book 'A Murder of Quality', which is a murder mystery set in a top English boys public school, I was pleased to be back in the more familiar world of Cold War spying and espionage. However, to describe 'The Spy Who Came In from the Cold' as a George Smiley book is a bit misleading as he barely appears. Instead, it is Alec Leamas, an un
...more
David
May 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Burned-out spies
Having just indulged my sweet tooth with Ian Fleming's spy candy, I sampled the more refined pleasures of John le Carré, who wrote a tense spy thriller without any gadgets or heroics or sultry seductresses. Instead, Alec Leamas is a middle-aged alcoholic on the verge of retirement from the spy game; burned out, embittered, and about to be cashiered for a string of failures while running England's spy network in Cold War Berlin. He's recruited for one final mission: to target the dangerous East G ...more
Zoeytron
Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thrillers come in different packages. Action thrillers are usually tricked out in bright colors with fancy bows and all manner of bedazzling allure. Dressed in more somber packaging are the cerebral thrillers. This is one of the latter. I like both types, by the way. It's been a good 40 years since I first read this book. My copy is an old dog-eared paperback with 75 cents printed on the cover, published in 1963. I was just hoping the glue would hold together long enough to read again without th ...more
William
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible tale of distrust, fear, courage, integrity, and the enduring nature of human love. Truly a Masterpiece
Chaunceton Bird
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A solid one-two punch in the gut. Top quality spy novel.
Lewis Weinstein
I have now finished my re-read, and I'm not sure if I'm happy or not that I didn't remember the ending. It's a thrilling story.

The way the story is presented ... what is revealed, what is held back, and the sequence of revelation ... is so superb. Any writer can benefit by outlining the scenes.

And of course there are the flawed characters, brilliant and stupid, compassionate and cold-hearted, none of them to be trusted, who populate all of le Carre's work.
Joshua Rigsby
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
John le Carré is simply one of the best spy/thriller writers of all time.

He ruminates on the dispensability of human life in the business of intelligence. Agents and desk analysts are cannon fodder in the sniping and political machinations of the higher ups. Real intelligence work has much less to do with honor and patriotism than practicality and appearances. The end always justifies the means and may very well have nothing to do with the national interest whatsoever.

The overwhelming majority
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • London Match (Bernard Samson, #3)
  • Lord of the Flies
  • A Coffin for Dimitrios (Charles Latimer, #1)
  • Falconer
  • The Tears of Autumn (Paul Christopher #2)
  • Dog Soldiers
  • Red Harvest
  • Dark Star (Night Soldiers, #2)
  • The Human Factor
  • Rogue Male (Rogue Male, #1)
  • A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1-3)
  • The Assistant
  • The Quiller Memorandum
5,187 followers
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

Other books in the series

George Smiley (9 books)
  • Call for the Dead (George Smiley #1)
  • A Murder of Quality (George Smiley #2)
  • The Looking Glass War (George Smiley #4)
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (The Karla Trilogy #1)
  • The Honourable Schoolboy (The Karla Trilogy #2)
  • Smiley's People (The Karla Trilogy #3)
  • The Secret Pilgrim (Smiley Retires #1)
  • A Legacy of Spies (Smiley Retires #2)
“This is a war," Lemas replied. "It's graphic and unpleasant because it's fought on a tiny scale, at close range; fought with a wastage of innocent life sometimes, I admit. But it's nothing, nothing at all besides other wars - the last or the next.” 25 likes
“We have to live without sympathy, don't we? That's impossible of course. We act it to one another, all this hardness; but we aren't like that really, I mean...one can't be out in the cold all the time; one has to come in from the cold...d'you see what I mean?” 24 likes
More quotes…