Regular price: $21.00

Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free.
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price.
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love.
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel.
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month.
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

George Smiley is no one's idea of a spy - which is perhaps why he's such a natural. But Smiley apparently made a mistake. After a routine security interview, he concluded that the affable Samuel Fennan had nothing to hide. Why, then, did the man from the Foreign Office shoot himself in the head only hours later? Or did he?

The heart-stopping tale of intrigue that launched both novelist and spy, Call for the Dead is an essential introduction to le Carre's chillingly amoral universe.

©2012 John le Carre (P)2012 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    525
  • 4 Stars
    425
  • 3 Stars
    125
  • 2 Stars
    23
  • 1 Stars
    9

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    648
  • 4 Stars
    270
  • 3 Stars
    69
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    4

Story

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    451
  • 4 Stars
    369
  • 3 Stars
    143
  • 2 Stars
    19
  • 1 Stars
    10
Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Great Entry to le Carré

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

My first exposure to le Carré was the recent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy film. I was so intrigued by the characters, especially George Smiley that I decided to read all of the George Smiley books. The physical description of Smiley, in Call for the Dead, does not bring Gary Oldman to mind, but the persona is dead on. The plot and character development are far less complex than in TTSS, but it was an enjoyable read none the less. It will be interesting to see how le Carré grows as an author throughout the books.

Overall the book was well worth the time, and the narration was great!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 10-09-12

Subtle story of friendship, espionage, guilt, etc

John le Carré's first novel is a subtle story of friendship, espionage, guilt and tradecraft. le Carré is one of those great genre writers who I think will be read 200 years from now. This short first novel foreshadows many of the themes and moral ambiguities of later le Carré espionage novels.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Rena
  • Silver Spring, MD
  • 12-31-12

LeCarre Fans Take Note

Would you consider the audio edition of Call for the Dead to be better than the print version?

This obscure little book is the first in the Smiley series, introducing our unlikely hero, along with Mendel and Guillam. For fans everywhere, this is a must-read. Michael Jayston, who played Guillam in the original BBC versions of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People does A wonderful job as narrator. Not to be missed--I am reading all my favorites all over again.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Smiley is the spies' spy.

The biographies of John le Carré and Ian Fleming can easily explain the difference between Smiley and Bond.

Fleming came from a wealthy family, his father was the Member of Parliament, and was educated at Eton, Sandhurst.

While le Carré did not know his mother, who abandoned him when he was five years old, and his father had been jailed for insurance fraud, was an associate of the natorious Kray twins, and was continually in debt. His schooling was at St Andrew's Preparatory School and Sherborne School.

Fleming worked in British Naval Intelligence during the Second World War and was involved in planning Operation Goldeneye and in the planning and oversight of two intelligence units.

Le Carré ran agents, conducted interrogations of people who crossed the Iron Curtain to the West, tapped telephone lines and effected break-in. He left the service after the betrayal of British agents' covers to the KGB by Kim Philby.

So while Bond is the fantasy of some who knew espionage from reports crossing his desk, Smiley is the result of a man that knew of the true immoral, grisly and unethical aspects of his profession.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Linda
  • Bowie, MD, United States
  • 09-04-17

First of George Smiley But Not Last

When I saw that a new book about George Smiley was to be published in a few days, I decided I'd better catch up and read the first in the series to find out who George Smiley was. I had heard of him from the books and movies, especially "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" but I had not read the books. I am so glad I started with Book #1 and found out about the short, slightly fat George Smiley. And became another smitten fan of John LeCarre'. The descriptions of the people and the character of each is so well written that you can feel like you can touch them. There are lots of good authors but LeCarre' set the measure for spy novels. I listened in audible and enjoyed the voice of the narrator Michael Jayston.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Cindy
  • Torrance, Ca USA
  • 11-06-14

Difficult to follow

What would have made Call for the Dead better?

If le Carre had developed and distinguished his characters more clearly.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Sarah Water's The Paying Guests.

Which scene was your favorite?

Smiley's first interview with the widow.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

I was disappointed that w book deemed as a 'classic' was so mundane and boring.

Any additional comments?

I wish I had chosen a more recent le Carre book to introduce me to this author.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

nice opening to series

i have read a couple of le carre's novels and liked them, (Constant Gardiner & From the Cold being excellent) and thought i'd start Smiley series and see how far i wanted to go, at least to Tinker, Tailor & then watch the film. I like the mystery aspect of this one, but I really like how convoluted the spy motive aspect of these get. I may like Le Carre more than i thought, maybe I waited too long to keep up with him. Narrator is good and I think the writing style is in general better from european authors.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A game played with clouds in the sky

Call for the Dead (1961) is John le Carre's first published novel and the first featuring his spy George Smiley, a neat protagonist. 'Short, fat, and of a quiet disposition,' toad-like with a tick in one eye, he's no handsome spy of action ala Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne or James Bond. He's an expert in obscure, 17th-century German poets, and posed in pre-WWII Germany as a scholar-lecturer while really serving as a talent-scout for potential spies. Now during the Cold War he's working for 'the Circus,' a fictionalized British Intelligence, as a home-based Intelligence Officer without expectation of promotion. He's been divorced by his beautiful upper-crust wife Lady Ann Sercomb and is still imagining what she'd say in certain situations. He's intelligent, possessed of a quick and powerful memory, and an astute judge of human nature and character. No idealist, he's aware that his work has encouraged his 'bloodless and inhuman' side and left him somewhat hollow.

After establishing Smiley's character and history, the plot of the novel begins when Smiley learns that the Foreign Office civil servant Samuel Fennan has committed suicide. Just the day before Smiley interviewed Fennan to let him know that he was not under suspicion from an anonymous letter referring to his Oxford University days' communism, and he knows that the man couldn't have felt that his career was in jeopardy or his loyalty questioned, so he doesn't believe the suspiciously typed suicide note. Smiley interviews Fennan's widow Elsa, a 'slight, fierce woman in her 50s with hair cut very short and dyed the color of nicotine,' a Jewish woman with a slight German accent and the atmosphere of the concentration camp survivor. After talking with her, he knows that she lied to him, but he also cannot believe that she could have killed her husband.

That said, (perhaps partly thinking of his wife) Smiley does muse, 'However closely we live together, at whatever time of day or night we sound the deepest thoughts in one another, we know nothing.' He has also become cynical about the concept of the state: 'State is a dream too, a symbol of nothing at all, an emptiness, a mind without a body, a game played with clouds in the sky. But States make war, don't they and imprison people?' Then he considers his return to work as going 'back to the unreality of containing a human tragedy in a three-page report.'

Enraged by his smooth head of service Maston not wanting to believe Fennan's death was a murder and very aware that 'intelligent men could be broken by the stupidity of their superiors,' Smiley resigns and tries to solve the mystery on his own, enlisting the aid of just-retired policeman Mendel and spy colleague Peter Guillam. This leads to painful realizations about Smiley's past and a suspenseful climax involving a theater, the Thames, and the suitably opaque London fog.

Call for the Dead is a compact and potent tale of espionage and murder, with a convincing set of characters and a complex (rather dark) vision of human nature and governments and bureaucrats and spies and the nations they're working for. No cardboard completely evil villains or completely good heroes here. Fans of literate murder mysteries with a political, espionage bent should like it.

Audiobook reader Michael Jayston is excellent as the narrator and as the different characters, whether British, German, male, female, working class or Oxbridge.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

monotonous

Most books that I listen to, I can stay awake through. This one was quite boring. I used to enjoy Lecarre.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Helena
  • Noblesville, IN, United States
  • 02-27-18

Never would have guess the outcome!

Le Carre’ at his best.
Great narration, distinguish between the characters so well. Great inflection and a fantastic read.