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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (The Karla Trilogy #1)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  50,152 Ratings  ·  3,027 Reviews
It is now beyond a doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, ...more
Paperback, 317 pages
Published December 1st 1975 by Pan Macmillan (first published 1974)
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Chitra Gautham This is the first book of the trilogy, which is completed by ' The honorable schoolboy', and then finally 'Smiley's people'. All of Le Carre's other…moreThis is the first book of the trilogy, which is completed by ' The honorable schoolboy', and then finally 'Smiley's people'. All of Le Carre's other books can be read in any order.(less)
Mehmet Serdar Thinker, Tailor would not be the correct material, i guess. I would rather recommend Ken Follet's Century Triology as it is perfect tour de france of…moreThinker, Tailor would not be the correct material, i guess. I would rather recommend Ken Follet's Century Triology as it is perfect tour de france of European politics of 20th century.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies, book-to-film
"The suspicious black car did not follow me home. How am I supposed to maintain this level of paranoia with this level of incompetence?" Tweet from jkeeten's defunct Twitter account.

"I don't smoke but I always travel w/ a Zippo lighter in case I have to light a beautiful woman's cigarette or the wick of a Molotov cocktail." Another tweet from jkeeten's defunct Twitter account.

The British Secret Service, resembling a corporation that has suffered sagging profits, has reshuffled key players, ouste
...more
Jason
Jan 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-kindle, 2012, reviewed
A few months ago a stylish looking British adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was released in theaters and I was intrigued. But I knew better. Movies are for smart people. If I had to constantly nudge my wife during Superbad to ask questions like, “so who is that guy again?” and “wait, is she the same one from before?” then I had to admit that seeing this movie would only serve to make me feel very confused and intellectually inadequate. I do better with books. Books explain things. Book ...more
Manny
Nov 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm one of many people who think that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the greatest espionage novel of all time. Let's take the obvious things first. Unlike most examples of this genre, it's extremely well-written. Also, having worked in espionage himself, le Carré is able to get the atmosphere right. It feels 100% authentic, and you see that spying is like most other jobs. The greater part of it is routine and office intrigues, though every now and then something unexpected and dramatic happens. ...more
Diane
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to state the obvious and say John le Carré is a really good writer.

This was my first le Carré novel, and I can see why he's considered such a master of the spy genre. The story itself was thrilling, but what I most appreciated were his thoughtful descriptions. The writing was so insightful that it was easy to become invested in the fate of the characters.

A quick plot summary: George Smiley is a retired British spy. He was forced out during a reorganization of the Circus, a nickname for
...more
Agnieszka

Who can spy on the spies ?

We are at the heart of British Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6. For the initiated the Circus. Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy it’s the look at the firm from the inside. Author himself worked there for many years and thanks to it I have no problems with his credibility. We get to know world of intelligence, its structure, jargon. Babysitters, lamplighters , ferrets, shoemakers, scalphunters . Sounds really crazy.

Intelligence work it is not guns and
...more
Jason Koivu
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, spy
I didn't understand half of what I just read, and yet I loved it all the same!

In John le Carré's (real name David Cornwell) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a British intelligence service known as the Circus has been compromised by a mole, a supposed Soviet double agent. Former agent George Smiley is called back from retirement to ferret him out.

This is more of a psychological suspense novel than an action-filled James Bond spy thriller. Smiley is getting up there in years and though he's conversa
...more
Patrick Brown
Aug 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Patrick by: Robert Newman and Marshall Presnick
Shelves: spy-thrillers
I had read The Spy Who Came In From the Cold on my honeymoon in Paris, and I remember liking it, but not rushing out to get more Le Carre. Well, now I'm going to rush out to get more Le Carre.

I didn't give this five stars because it was a touch slow to get moving. I think if I'd just been able to focus a little more, I would've been into the plot faster. Le Carre has this ability to make every character a mystery. So much is withheld from the reader, and yet the characters are fascinating. I
...more
Willow
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is not my type of book. I never read stuff like this. I don’t like contemporaries (unless there are vampires or witches in them) and I rarely read mysteries. I loved the movie though (I’m a big Gary Oldman fan) so I thought what the heck, I’ll read the book. After all, it’s not really a contemporary…at least not anymore. The action takes place during the early seventies. So here I am.

First off, I have to say Le Carre writes with amazing detail. These guys aren’t like
...more
K
I freely admit that I am not smart enough to appreciate this book.

The whole thing was way too convoluted for me. First I was in one character's head, then another, then back to the first. Then there was a third character who mostly made cameo appearances and was clearly unimportant, but we spend time in his head too. As if that's not confusing enough, different people narrate different parts of the story as master spy George Smiley (highly distracting name, I must say) interviews different playe
...more
Laure
Just one of those perfect books.
Derrick
Jan 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oft billed as the "anti-Ian Flemming," John Le Carre inverts all the typical trappings of the spy-thriller: in place of the handsome, gadget-happy g-man we're given a sacked, middle-aged cuckold whose attention to detail and intellectual virtuosity quietly derail Moscow Central's invisible vise-grip on the Circus.

Note that "quietly," as the tension here is all cerebral, the violence and spectacle off-stage, and the stakes themselves, though no less dire than the fate of the world, are entirely i
...more
Megan Baxter
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a great synchronicity that this popped up on one of my reading lists right now, as one of my gaming groups is about to embark on a game of Cold City, set in post-War Berlin, playing representatives of different countries in BPRD-like surroundings.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
El
Apparently I'm turning into a really shitty reader.

This is the first Le Carré I've read, and whatever, I think I expected a little more James Bond than, well, George Smiley - a name which every single time was mentioned (which was quite a lot) always made me think of his muppet-brother, Guy Smiley. Picturing George as a human and not a muppet made the reading more difficult than I had intended. (See first note about becoming a really shitty reader.)

And in my current mood I wanted some violence.
...more
Michael
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How amazing--a spy novel where virtually nothing happens, and yet it's compelling and suspenseful nonetheless. It's really a testament to le Carre's writing that he pulls this off. A wonderfully cerebral work.
Ryan
Oct 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Veterans of Britain's secret service refer to MI6 as the Circus, and when Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opens, our hero George Smiley has been kicked out of the show. So Smiley has not retired with dignity, but rather has been ousted for backing a jaded horse. The head of Circus, a spy so skilled that people only knew him as "Control," went out in a blaze of tragedy, and Smiley's career was one of the casualties.

Unknown to most, Control was trying to find a mole. He failed and the Circus has been re
...more
Kate
Mar 26, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Krissa
First off, I understand that Tinker Tailor is a spy novel, and that Le Carre obviously wanted to achieve a certain effect appropriate to the genre, and to keep everything "realistic." But it was jargon-y to a fault, and in keeping its audience as in the dark as its protagonist, it succeeded too well.

Furthermore, its characters never spoke the way they were described - it was always "'could you pass the tea please, that's a boy,' he shouted furiously." And about 95% of the book is written in past
...more
Nigeyb
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've wanted to read the George Smiley books since watching the BBC adaptation of 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' back in the 1970s. I subsequently loved the 2011 film adaptation directed by Tomas Alfredson, which I saw in the cinema, and rewatched a few weeks ago. Everything I had heard about the source material suggested joy and wonder would await and, so far, I’m pleased to report, that’s exactly what I have found.

I have read the series, up until 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy', in quick success
...more
Trevor
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, mystery
I caught up with a friend a few weeks ago when I had just started this book and he said he had given up on the film and drifted off to sleep as he had completely lost track of what was going on and in the end couldn’t care either way anyway. That was exactly the experience I was having with the book and had thought it was just me. But then, all of a sudden, at about the middle of this one (I imagine just as George was dozing off in the film), the pieces of the jigsaw start dropping into place an ...more
gaby
Jun 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy
And thus began what would be a year and a half-long obsession with George Smiley and his British Circus. Having now read every last book in which Smiley is even cursorily mentioned, I can say steadfast that this is Le Carre's masterwork. It is a warm, immersive book. It draws you in like a warm sweater, and keeps you suspended weightless and happy in its alternate world. I literally read this book three times in a row before moving on to the next in the trilogy (The Honourable Schoolboy). It is ...more
Feliks
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: genre-thrillers
For quite some time, this was one of the most amazing successes in the genre of espionage fiction. It reined supreme. The reading public had never seen anything quite like it. Everyone knew John LeCarre was a spy writer and that he was 'rather good'. Everyone--absolutely everyone--was aware of the landmark, the juggernaut which he had already achieved some years previously: 'The Spy Who Came in From the Cold'. But no one --I think--expected him to equal that triumph; no one expected him to follo ...more
Matt Brady
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
The best espionage thriller I’ve ever read. One of the greatest living British writers hardly needs me to talk him up, but I truly am in awe of le Carré's skills.

The plot is fairly simple. It’s the early 70’s and George Smiley, after a year of forced retirement, is tasked with uncovering the identity of a Soviet mole that has managed to infiltrate the highest echelons of the British secret service. But the amount of depth and complexity that le Carre manages to add to this story is remarkable, a
...more
ne0n
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ΠΟΣΟ ΤΕΛΕΙΑ ΓΡΑΦΕΙ Ο ΛΕΚΑΡΕ ΡΕ?!
Emer
The blurb from the back of the book:
"The Circus (aka MI6) has already suffered a bad defeat and the result was two bullets in a man's back. But a bigger threat still exists. The legendary George Smiley is recruited to root out a high-level mole of thirty years' standing - though to find him means spying on the spies."

Do you ever feel like you're just not on the ball? Like you're two seconds behind everyone else?? That everyone else gets things quicker than you and you are always trying to catch
...more
Tahsina Syeda
Nov 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
John le Carré-কে সপাই নভেলিসট বললে আসলে তেমন কিছু পরিষকার হয় না। সপাই থরিলার বলতে আমরা যে গতানুগতিক juvenile male wish-fulfillment টাইপ ধুনধুমার গোলাগুলি, দরুতগতির গাড়ি আর শোপিস-সুনদরীদের আনাগোনা বুঝি, সেরকম মোটা দাগের বযাপার পাওয়া যাবে না তাঁর লেখায়।
পাওয়া যাবে সনায়ুযুদধের শীতল বিবরণ পরেকষাপটে পরতিমুহূরতের কলানতিকর সতরকতা, সতয-মিথযার পরায় মুছে যাওয়া সীমারেখা, উচচাকাংখা, নিরমম পরতিযোগিতা, বিশবাস, আর সরবোপরি বিশবাসঘাতকতা।

লেখকের লেখার সবচেয়ে অসাধারণ দিক চরিতরায়ণ। তাঁর চরিতরগুলো পরায়ই গলযামারহীন; মা
...more
Kat
It was enjoyable - but what a mess!

Structurally it was a catastrophe for me. It's part of a series, but I went in thinking it was fine reading it on its own, and it is, in a way. Smiley's case isn't linked to any previous novels - but I think some of the backstory that kept popping up here would have come across less confusing had I read any of the other books previously. As it was now it felt unfitting and interrupted in the most frustrating places, which was a downer.

The spy stuff is really go
...more
Ij
Jul 04, 2014 marked it as abandoned-books  ·  review of another edition
I read over 200 pages before deciding to abandon this book. I only read this far to find out what happened to the characters in chapter 1. It seem not worth it to me to continue this slow read.

Note:

This book was included in “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.”

I own the 2006 edition of “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.” Peter Boxall is the general editor and the preface was written by Peter Ackroyd. This book has compiled 1001 recommended books, primarily novels which were selected
...more
Chloe
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Graham Greene's The Human Factor
Recommended to Chloe by: Ted Graf
When it comes to the spy novel, John le Carre is the undisputed master. The man can fill a typically unexciting scene, say of a character reading letters, with enough suspense and tension to leave the reader tight-lipped and breathless as they hurriedly flip to the next page. His spies are not the supermen of Hollywood like Bond and Bourne, but instead are unathletic, unassuming people who tend to either resemble washed-up pugilists or sallow-cheeked bank clerks.

Le Carre's George Smiley is the e
...more
Michael
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is my second John le Carré novel, the first being The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (which I may need to read again). I remember never really feeling the need to go out and read some more, which would have been a huge mistake. My reasoning for reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was mainly came from the need to have the book read before seeing the movie adaption. John le Carré does a great job writing complex spy plots, but sometimes it gets too confusing and makes ...more
Thomas Briggs
Sep 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not for the cursory reader, this book presents an enigmatic quest by that least dashing of protagonists, Mr. George Smiley, late of the Circus (MI6). The reader is dropped, as in other LeCarre novels, into the middle of the story, and must piece together the story from Smiley’s own memories and those of others who, in one way or another have been exiled from their life’s work . Gradually, Smiley finds that the promotion of an incompetent to the leadership of the service, and the banishment of th ...more
William
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A masterpiece of spy noir. And the 1979 BBC tv series, too. (Watching again now)
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • London Match (Bernard Samson, #3)
  • The Riddle of the Sands
  • Epitaph for a Spy
  • The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carre Summary  Study Guide
  • Kingdom of Shadows (Night Soldiers, #6)
  • The Miernik Dossier (Paul Christopher #1)
  • The Third Man
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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
More about John le Carré...

Other Books in the Series

The Karla Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Honourable Schoolboy
  • Smiley's People

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“The more identities a man has, the more they express the person they conceal.” 181 likes
“There are moments which are made up of too much stuff for them to be lived at the time they occur.” 71 likes
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