Smiley’s People is the last John Le Carré novel centered on George Smiley, an unsexy, un-egotistical, unflappable, unheroic, and unrelenting British Cold War era spymaster.
When a former agent is found murdered after having tried to contact him with information about Sandman, Smiley is brought back from retirement to “help.”
Sandman is the nickname agents had given to Smiley’s opposite number in the Russian spy apparatus.
Smiley does a deep dive through the memories of his former staff people, seeking clues to who murdered Vladimer and why.
He also does a little sleuthing on his own.
Le Carré’s novels are always more about personalities and procedures than about high speed chases and high-caliber shootouts.
In Smiley’s People, that spotlight focus is particularly chilling. Smiley is old, alone, unloved. He’s filling time until he dies. He gets one more chance to pull off something spectacular.
Everything he’s worked his whole career for depends on getting one thing right. He must solve the murder and the problems it presents for the agency.
The secret service heads want him to succeed, but not so well that he shows them up.
Le Carré’s ending is dark and plausible with the perfect amount of surprise.
Smiley’s People by John Le Carré
Knopf, 1980, ©1979. 374 p.
1979 bestseller #10 My grade: A-
©2018 Linda G. Aragoni