Call For the Dead by John le Carré

Call For the Dead was John le Carré’s first novel. He wrote it while still an employee of MI6, the British version of the CIA. It’s an entertaining mystery story about spies and murder that introduces the character of George Smiley, the “little fat man, rather gloomy,” who is the hero of Le Carre’s later novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

We also meet other characters who will return in later novels: the younger, suave Peter Guillam; the police officer Mendel; and the high-level civil servant Maston, later known as Lacon. Unfortunately, we don’t meet Smiley’s ex-wife Ann, although her words do appear a few times.

It’s a short novel, but quite good. My only problem was wondering how Smiley survived several blows to the head with a lead pipe, and why the police weren’t immediately summoned at a climactic moment. But if Smiley had died, or the police had been called, Call For the Dead would have been even shorter.

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