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A Small Town in Germany

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  6,580 ratings  ·  363 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 abov
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
896 books — 1,156 voters
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
Best Spy Novels
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  6,580 ratings  ·  363 reviews

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Lynne King
Jun 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: germany, fiction
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
Sep 11, 2011 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
Jun 26, 2013 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. ...more
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another John le Carré masterclass.

This slow burn novel is predominantly set in Bonn, then the capital of West Germany, in the late 1960s, with a backdrop of significant political upheaval: numerous student demonstrations, and interestingly, given the current Brexit negotiations, part of this book's context is whether the UK will be invited to join the EU which was very much in the balance at the time.

British industry was in the doldrums, the economy was in freefall, inflation was starting to r
What in the heck did I just read?

Because I am muddled about this book, I cannot give it a rating.
Apr 17, 2016 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
Jun 16, 2007 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. ...more
Feb 10, 2015 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. ...more
Aug 16, 2016 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
Huw Evans
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy, thriller, fiction
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
Sep 30, 2008 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. ...more
Lyn Elliott
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: germany, thrillers
It’s quite unnerving reading about political upheaval in Europe in 1968, when Britain was trying desperately to get into the European common market, Germany was divided and Bonn the western capital, and find that much remains the same after decades of to-ing and fro-ing, though now England (not Britain) wants to leave the EU.

The warp threads of Small Town in Germany include the rise of Neo-Nazism, the hypocrisy of diplomatic expediency; polite political games with deadly outcomes; powerful, comp
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
Jun 22, 2012 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
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
C. A. Powell
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leo Harting in a low-grade admin worker at the British Embassy in Bonn, West Germany. It is about 1968 and there is political turmoil in Germany and also for Britain. Britain is trying to win favour with the German Federal Government with its application for Common Market membership. (Boy how the worm has turned in this day and age.) Leo has gone missing. So have a batch of top secret documents. One of them labelled green. Evidently, a green file is highly sensitive.

Back in the UK, a Foreign Off
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.75 if I had to rate it
Jan 04, 2010 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
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: john-le-carre
As you may notice, my reviews for Le Carre tend to be across the board 5 star. The point is that I truly enjoy the process of reading everyone one of his books. Of course some are better than others, and some I enjoy more. But the process of finding out what I think of his books is truly enjoyable enough that i know that, to me, they can (thus far) all enjoy 5 stars.

A Small Town in Germany is a strange book. A friend told me that Le Carre himself spent time in Bon - the setting & primary foe of
Michael Martz
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Early Le Carre is still great Le Carre. As with most of his work, if you can make it through the long set-up and make sense of the British-ism embedded in the writing, you'll be rewarded with a fine novel.

The 'small town' referenced in the title is Bonn, (West) Germany in the late 60's during the Cold War. It was a different world then, but maybe not so different since protests against an economic summit, issues related to NATO, and Russian spying are all in the story line. The plot is solid: a
Kimmo Sinivuori
Mar 28, 2014 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
Robert Spencer
Apr 05, 2017 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
Jan 01, 2017 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
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I found the plot quite difficult to follow but the ending was interesting.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
My first by John Le Carre - a good read. I wish I could give it 4.5.
Liz Mc2
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, mystery, spies
Random library audiobook selection. I’m not sure le Carré in audiobook is the best choice, since it made the twisty plot harder to follow and I kept confusing some of the characters. I did find this really interesting/depressing though. It’s set in an imagined near-future (to the time of publication, 1968) Bonn in which West Germany is seeing the rise of a populist demagogue and a turn towards alliance with the USSR rather than the West. It didn’t happen that way, but what the novel imagines is ...more
Nov 23, 2017 rated it liked it
This is part of the early John Le Carre work. Set in Bonn in the mid 1960s we are introduced to the British diplomats and others who work in the British Embassy at the time when Britain was trying so hard to enter the EU. I thought I had read this some time ago but obviously not and it is not a good choice when one is not really feeling well. You have a definite feeling that LeCarre was in a furious rage against those who had been running the diplomatic service and missing entirely what was impo ...more
Maine Colonial
In the novel’s late 1960s West Germany, political power is in flux and the western powers seem weak against the might and will of Moscow. Led by a cult-of-personality nationalist, Klaus Karfeld, with more than a whiff of the Nazi about him, elements within West Germany vocally and violently embrace the right. British intelligence is fearful that it will lose the country.*

Then, a crisis. A minor embassy official named Leo Harting has disappeared, along with valuable and potentially damaging files
Ruth Booth
Jan 12, 2017 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
Kev Bartlett
Feb 03, 2016 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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John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), was an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré had resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than 40 years, where he owned a mile of cliff close to Land's End. ...more

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