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Publisher's Summary

Number-one New York Times best-seller.

The undisputed master returns with his first Smiley novel in more than 25 years - a number-one New York Times best-seller and ideal holiday gift.

Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley, and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications. 

Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own intense story, John le Carré has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In a story resonating with tension, humor, and moral ambivalence, le Carré and his narrator, Peter Guillam, present the listener with a legacy of unforgettable characters old and new. 

©2017 John le Carré (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"The combined performances of author John le Carré and narrator Tom Hollander in this new George Smiley espionage novel are a tour de force to be savored and cherished." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A long slow conclusion to the Smiley series

Tom Hollander is wonderful reading this ending and coda to the story that starts with Le Carre’s start. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, and all the rest. Ghosts haunt, the past is exhumed. We go through it all again and many loose ends are tied off and fused. It makes me want to go back and read or listen to them all again.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 09-12-17

All for England

"We don't pay a lot, and careers tend to be interrupted. But we do feel it is an important job, as long as one cares about the end, and not too much about the means."
- John le Carré, A Legacy of Spies

Le Carré's fiction career can be roughly be divided into two broad, angry worlds (if we ignore his brief, early attempt at crime fiction): Cold War espionage novels and post-Cold War espionage novels. 'A Legacy of Spies' bridges this gulf with one of the great characters from le Carré's early works (let's call them his Broadway House books) by placing one of the best characters from the Cold War, Peter Guillam, George Smiley's right-hand man, into his post-Cold War period (let's call these books his Vauxhall Trollop books). By doing this, le Carré essentially sets up a novel where the retired "heroes" of the Cold-War "Circus" are judged by the lawyers of Whitehall/Legoland/Vauxhall Trollop.

If you didn't think a fictionalized account of a bureaucratic, HR nightmare could be sexy, well, think again. Le Carré's cold genius is found in his ability to show the moral contradictions involved in espionage work and also place that into context to the modern world. This book allows le Carré to juggle both the moral difficulties of the past (Ends>Means) and contrast that with the current state of Mi6 in the UK (Means>Ends). In his struggle to discover if the means of the past were worth the moral costs, while illuminating if the bureaucratic efficiency of the now is effective or even moral, le Carré discovers one core truth of the Modern World: the lawyers and the bureaucrats have won.

36 of 38 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Regrets

Would you consider the audio edition of A Legacy of Spies to be better than the print version?

Yes

What other book might you compare A Legacy of Spies to and why?

the spy who came in from the cold

Have you listened to any of Tom Hollander’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

Any additional comments?

Regrets in most of those five star reviews I have given for far lesser works. This, if not a masterwork, is very close and I will re listen many times.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Excellent

Yet another excellent novel from Le Carre. The story is about a mission preceeding the book, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. All of Smiley's people are in retirement and the Circus is trying to head-off legal action stemming from the mission, and Alex Leamas' mission in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. (I suggest watching the movie again to reaquaint with the characters and plot.) This new book takes place after the Karla Trilogies, so it should be read in order (last) to understand the subleties that are not explained in-depth or are brushed over. Le Carre presumes the audience has read all the books up to this point. I think the action is fine and suspenseful -- this is typical Le Carre -- people reading files and documents and listening to secret recordings; I see no point in complaining about this because that's how all of his novels are written (no gunfights, no car chases).Retired old Peter Guillam is the star of the novel, and Alex Leamas; we briefly catch up with Smiley towards the end. I loved all of the books in the Karla trilogy, this is a fourth installation which also brings The Spy Who Came in from the Cold into the Karla books.
Tom Hollander (starred in the mini-series The Night Manager) is outstanding; his rendition fits in beautifully with the preceeding books in the series; i suspect he listened to Michael Jayston and Le Carre himself narrate to prepare. His voice is low and steady, and it is easy to tell when the action switches from a Guillam memory or Guillam reading a top secret document file. Very well done all around - BC

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Reacquainted with old friends

It is fun to meet many of the characters from former LeCarre books. As always he excels at character development. Always an eye for detail - things like how a passing character puts on her reading glasses. The resolution of the plot is less definitive, but in many ways fits with Smilie's character.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Decent Legacy

A Legacy of Spies is a decent post-mortem on the events of Le Carre's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Decent, but not excellent. Through Peter Guillam we get a second look at the background leading up to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. An old, retired Guillam is brought back to London to answer inquiries concerning the tragic results of the operations in the Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Unsurprisingly, this brings up the specter of the Circus mole, cold-named "Gerald" (I'm trying to avoid spoilers) who is brought down by George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Strengths of the novel:
1) Le Carre writes interrogation scenes extraordinarily well.
For emotional reasons and simple self preservation he does not want to reveal the details of his previous operations. The interview scenes are well written. We are able to piece together events based on Guillam's answers, the questions he's being asked, and later through reports and old telegrams he reads.
2) This work is a plausible background to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold which was not a long novel.
3) The narration by Tom Hollander is very good.

Weaknesses
1) The conclusion is not thrilling. Perhaps that cannot be helped. This work is an exploration of the effects of a Circus operation. There are no international consequences at stake (no cold war) and since most of the players are very old...well, I hate to say it, but their lives aren't worth as much. They have less life left to lose.
2) The novel waits to the end to reveal when this inquiry is taking place. But given the ages
of the characters, we can guess (early in the novel) that the inquiries in A Legacy of Spies almost certainly aren't happening in 2017. It might have been best to clarify that up front.
3) As a companion piece, this novel is reworking old ground and as such it is intended for people familiar with Le Carre''s earlier work. Furthermore, this is a moral autopsy of that fictional "history." We know that the cold war ends and that nothing anyone did or might have done in those operations would have changed the outcome for the better. This leaves us sorting out people's intentions and the conflict between national (good for England) duties versus personal duties (good for this specific person.) There are no surprising discoveries on that moral front.
On the other hand, this novel shows that the irreconcilability of such moral duties is what has made the spy world an excellent source of tragedy in John Le Carre's work rather than a source of action (except for a few brief scenes) in Ian Fleming's work.

I recommend this novel to readers who enjoyed both The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and want to revisit those stories.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Hollander and Le Carre': A Perfect Partnership

I am pretty sure I have read everything Le Carre' has written - even the less than stellar post Cold War efforts. Returning to his original roots and characters, this latest effort is delightful. Tom Hollander's narration - performance really - is perfect. If he ever decides to give up full time acting, reading audio books would be a worthwhile second career. It is really quite astounding how each character sounds exactly as described - gender, class, nationality, age, are all pitch perfect. Bravo to both gentlemen. A wonderful listen~

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A valedictory gift to his fans

A partial retelling and expansion of one of le Carre’s greatest tales. Reader’s performance is first rate. Strongly recommend to any fans of early-mid le Carre. Feels like remembering and reliving the earlier tales as if the reader was there.
I think the experience is richer if you read/listen to Call for the Dead, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and perhaps the Karla Trilogy first but the story stands on its own. One fears this is last of le Carre’s great characters but hopefully not the last fiction from the master.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Another great LeCarre, it goes without saying, but

Occasionally confusing with frequent time shifts but as always, beautifully crafted, with moments of tension and suitably menacing softly spoken characters. The story as such, as good as any Le Carre. But why did he leave the denouement entirely to our imagination - Le Carre who would without doubt have made it a tour de force ? It seems almost like the writer himself got bored or tired, didn't feel equal to the task of producing one more passage of vintage workmanship. And for me, the Smiley Europe statement rings false, probably because I am disappointed with the European response to Brexit, the "we never really wanted you here in the first place, you have nothing in common with us, and now you've decided to leave we are really going to stick it to you". I don't think that's the Europe that Smiley had in mind.
I have to say that Hollander's reading is outstanding - pacing perfect, he has an ability to bring characters immediately to life with appropriate accents, tones and mannerisms of speach even to the point of producing one character pretending to speak like another.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • robert
  • GERMANTOWN, TN, United States
  • 05-21-18

A legacy of John Le Carre superbly performEd

Outstandingly written and performed!

I enjoyed it so much, that it was a pleasure to listen to some of the chapters more than one time. The authors turn of words and the performance Were like music. I strongly recommend this audiobook.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful