By the late 1950s, veteran British Secret Service agent George Smiley does mostly quiet work back in England. Two days after he conducts a routine security check of a Foreign Office employee named Fennan -- a man Smiley is sure poses no risk -- the man turns up dead, an apparent suicide. His widow, Elsa, a Jewish escapee from the Nazis, tells Smiley a few lies that don't add up. Smiley suspects Fennan was murdered, but his superiors want him to just let the case go. Smiley pursues it anyway, with the help of a police detective named Mendel, and the case turns out to involve people from Smiley's spy-recruiting past in Germany before the war. This 1961 novel was Le Carre's first book, in which he introduced his short, plump, nearsighted and "highly forgettable" but brilliant longime hero.
This report prepared by David Loftus