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A Legacy of Spies (Viking), by John le Carré

Sep. 5, 2017
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John le Carré’s espionage fiction isn’t entirely based on guesswork. He was still serving in Britain’s MI6 when he began writing novels whose often interlinked plots did not present the West and the Soviet Bloc as moral equivalents—as he’s sometimes accused—but colored the entire Cold War enterprise in many shades of gray. A Legacy of Spies revisits the past, bringing back the mysterious spymaster George Smiley and, as reluctant protagonist, one of Smiley’s protégés. Long since retired to France, Peter Guillam is pulled into an investigation of the spy agency’s dark past by cluelessly arrogant young bureaucrats. The Cold War had casualties and the descendants of the dead are pressing their case. Shifting back and forth in time and place, Legacy is a meditation on aging as well as the cost of life in the shadows. As one spy puts it, “Everything seems. Nothing is.”

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