It is the early 1960s. British military intelligence sent Taylor over to Finland to pick up a roll of film that was shot over a suspicious area of East Germany, but he is hit by a car and killed. Another office man from the department, Avery, follows to pose as Taylor's half-brother and retrieve the body (as well as the film, if he can locate it). His trip arouses suspicion not only among the Finnish and East German authorities, but in "the Circus," as the primary British spy organization is known. Avery and his superiors are sure something big is happening in East Germany -- perhaps the placement of Soviet missiles -- and they train a man (Leiser, a Pole who did some espionage for Britain during the Second World War) to go in and investigate. The goal is to do this not only without the communists catching on, but also Smiley and the Circus, into whose territory they are probably intruding. Le Carre's fourth novel expertly depicts spy and espionage training, inter-agency rivalry, and how many things can very quickly go wrong.
This report prepared by David Loftus