Review: Le Carre’s Tailor of Panama

A version of this review originally appeared on a now long defunct livejournal account.
The Tailor of Panama
John Le Carre

Le Carre, is in my opinion, the best espionage novelist of all time. If you’re fan of the genre, you’ve probably read at least some of his books. If not, you should.

The Tailor of Panama was the first book of his I read (I picked it up in an airport in Germany, which feels kind of right). In some ways, it’s an outlier. LeCarre’s masterpieces, the Smiley books, all take place mainly in the dank offices and dark alleys of cold war Europe. Here we’re in sunny Panama, but its still a world of mirrors and lies, deception by and to those we love, and understated implied, violence. LeCarre is still one of the best dialogue writers in the business. His ear for the way we speak is unparalleled.
In the Le Carre cannon the Tailor of Panama may be a minor work, but if you’re a fan of spy fiction it is certainly still a book worth reading.

Recommended for the enthusiast.

Review: LeCarre’s Spy Who Came In From The Cold

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold: A George Smiley Novel (George Smiley Novels)
John LeCarre

This is the one that made LeCarre’s name. It is a dark look at the horrible machinations of the KGB and MI6 at the height of the cold war, and the price that a number of foot soliders in that war played. This book sets the form that LeCarre will work to perfection until the collapse of the soviet union – damaged British agents versus evil communists with a fair amount of innocents on both sides getting taken down in the whole mess. It also introduces, though does not focus on, the man who would come to define LeCarre’s mid-career masterpieces, George Smiley.

If you pretend to be interested in the spy fiction genre, you need to read this. Even if you don’t, it’s a great read, you should check it out.

Recommended for the Enthusiast.

Review: Le Carre’s Our Game

Our Game
John LeCarre
Perhaps the best of LeCarre’s non-Smiley novels this one centers on the relationship of a fellow traveler socialist turned British Cold War spy and his longtime handler and what happens in their broken lives when the Cold War that framed their identities ends. Like most Le Carre novels, the plot is well constructed, the characters are complex and near perfectly drawns, and the dialogue is top notch.

As we all know, no one does this genre better than LeCarre. No one here is a hero, nor, really, an anti-hero. For all the international intrigue, they’re really just broken men and women muddling through and the spying is really just a way to talk about betrayal, the British class system, dysfunctional relationship. Who can resist?

Recommended for the enthusiast.