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Editorial Reviews

"A radio triumph...Simon Russell Beale's pitch-perfect master spy." ( Financial Times)

Publisher's Summary

The complete collection of acclaimed BBC Radio dramas based on John le Carré's best-selling novels, starring Simon Russell Beale as George Smiley. With a star cast including Kenneth Cranham, Eleanor Bron, Brian Cox, Ian MacDiarmid, Anna Chancellor, Hugh Bonneville and Lindsay Duncan, these enthralling dramatisations perfectly capture the atmosphere of le Carré's taut, thrilling spy novels. 'Call for the Dead' is the first Smiley novel, which sees him looking into an apparent suicide only to uncover a murderous conspiracy; 'A Murder of Quality' finds Smiley investigating a murder in a private school; 'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold' introduces Alec Leamas, a British intelligence officer whose East Berlin network is in tatters; 'The Looking Glass War' features former spy Fred Leiser, lured back from retirement to investigate a claim that Soviet missiles are being installed close to the West German border; 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' is the first book in the Karla trilogy, and sees Smiley searching for a mole who has infiltrated the Circus; 'The Honourable Schoolboy' sees Smiley determined to destroy his nemesis, Karla, and his spy networks; 'Smiley's People' finds George Smiley called out of retirement to exorcise some Cold War ghosts from his clandestine past; and 'The Secret Pilgrim' sees Smiley invited to dine with the eager new recruits at the Circus. He offers them his thoughts on espionage and, in doing so, prompts a former colleague to re-examine his own eventful secret life. Duration: 19 hours.

©2016 BBC Worldwide Ltd (P)2016 BBC Worldwide Ltd

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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

good reading but can't navigate

You get several novels dramatized over 18 hours, in two massive files. It's impossible to pick one of the novels and listen to it separately. You just have to start at the beginning with Call For the Dead and keep going. The second file starts part way through Smiley's People, so there's no point starting there. God help you if you lose your place and have to find it again in one or the other of these two huge files. That's not quite what I expected from Audible. I like to be able to navigate readily within an audiobook. Audible should've divided this up so that each dramatization is a separate audio file. The production quality is quite decent, a bit hammed up in places, but then many English people do talk that way; also, I don't know that the reader doing Smiley has quite the right accent for a man of his age and social station.

66 of 67 people found this review helpful

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

Outstanding Radio Plays!

While the large cast of characters in John LeCarre's various George Smiley-centered novels can make getting into them a challenge, once you have done that just about all of them, even the baddies, will seem like old friends. I think for those who have not read at least Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy the eight radio plays that are presented here will seem frustrating at first, but even that will pass with time and careful listening. For those thoroughly familiar with Smiley's world, the plays are pure pleasure. You hardly notice the abridgment, and the voicing of each character is spot on. There is some additional dialogue added, mainly as exposition when it is needed, but I believe John Le Carre would wholeheartedly approve- his author's voice is in no way diminished by the additions. I think that these are essential listening, and will only add new fans to this great body of work.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I don't know how you beat this for value

Where does The Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I mean, all the Smiley stories in one purchase with incredible BBC performances. Say no more. Say yes. These got me going back and listening to the full length books and watching the movies as well.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Superbly done.

Mr Beale as Smiley is perfect. From his breathing to his temperament. Exciting and engaging. The time flew by.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Utterly compelling

Where does The Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Definitely in the top tier

What other book might you compare The Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas to and why?

In the pantheon of BBC productions, this ranks with their Lord of the Rings.

What does full cast and Simon Russell Beale bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

George Smiley is such a wonderfully complex character, so frail in some ways and so utterly strong and humane in others. Beale's performance captured this in a way that brings le Carre's masterwork out of the page.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

It's been done, it wasn't as good.

Any additional comments?

The Bbc is justly famous for their radio productions of literature. The entire cast of this sprawling production is excellent, the music is precisely right, the audio production is, of course, beyond compare. All that serves to bring forth a story that was already amazing. I had read the Tinker Tailor books, but the performances here are now my definitive version.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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

had to come back to this

What did you love best about The Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas?

I love the repeatability of this performance. I own about 80 audio books here at audible and a lot more that I've collected over the years and I've listened to this one over and over and over again. Excellent work.

What other book might you compare The Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas to and why?

Possibly the Sherlock Holmes dramatizations but I've still listened to this one more often.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

There were unexpected moments when it made me laugh. The accents are very well done and quite a few characters are real ... well characters.

Extreme reactions? I could do with a whiskey. I'm also a bit more partial to frogs.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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

Not as good as the books

The problem with the BBC radio plays is that the main character, George Smiley, is a subtle introvert. There are scenes where George does nothing but sit there and wait in the novels. How do you do that on radio? The BBC didn't figure it out.

Some of the best bits from the novel were cut out, either for brevity, or because they were nuanced. One of the best bits of dialogue in "The Looking Glass War", where leCarre actually shows you how to convince someone else to do what you want as if it is there idea, was cut.

The audio books are also available on Audible. I have listened to both and recommend the books.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Delightfully entertaining

I enjoyed this performance very much. I recommend it highly I look forward to more in this series

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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

Some of John's best works brought to life

Where does The Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of my current favorites, and, one I'll keep in my audible library.

Who was your favorite character and why?

George, because of his storylines, along with Connie due to her knowledge

Which character – as performed by Simon Russell Beale – was your favorite?

George, among others.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I can't think of one, plus, several of these books ahve been adapted as films already.

Any additional comments?

A must-have for fans of John Le Carre, and spy fiction in general, I believe.

2 of 3 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

Great version of the books

Great version of the books, excellent actors and production, especially The Secret Pilgrim. Even though it was written almost 30 years ago, seems even more relevant today.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • clivep
  • 06-20-16

brilliant

I stumbled across this presentation after listening to 2 Le Carre novels and must say that it was enthralling. So good was the acting that at times it stopped me from working just so that I could finish a story. I will look out for more in this format

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Chill
  • 06-29-16

Excellent series

This collection is well presented and enjoyable to listen to. The series takes George Smiley through the latter part of his Circus career and beyond, often he is not the mainstay but remains in the background as the master puppeteer.
The condensing of the books has been done well, it is not necessary to have read the books in order to follow the plot.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-24-16

BBC radio adaptation at its best

Any additional comments?

The BBC does great radio adaptations of well known novels and this ranks alongside The Lord of the Rings, War and Peace and Asimov's Foundation Trilogy as one of the best.
A good introduction to the Smiley series for those new to Le Carre and tasty comfort food for fans like myself who know his books well.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • CrisH
  • 03-07-17

A satisfying marathon listen

Once I started this compendium radio drama I couldn't stop. It took the best part of two weeks to finish but it was well worth it.
All of the novels about George Smiley are here faithfully dramatised by Simon Russell Beale and a fantastic supporting cast.
It took me a while to get the image of Alex Guinness out of my mind but Simon is a worthy successor to the role and gave a suspenseful and subtle performance.
My favourite was episode was The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, but all of the stories were involving.
John Le Carre is a masterful writer in the spy genre and these productions from the BBC bring the stories to life.
Highly recommended.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Geoff
  • 01-24-17

Excellent.

Masterfully told coak and dagger stories of Cold War espionage. Convincingly performed and well produced.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Smask
  • 12-25-16

Wonderful leCarre

Would you listen to The Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas again? Why?

Have already listened to it more than once. Superb quality and excellent writer.

Who was your favorite character and why?

George Smiley always

Have you listened to any of Simon Russell Beale’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Always quality

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • DT teachet
  • 08-01-16

very good

loved it very good escapism alot of food for thought, would recommend it to all

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Robin Lapper
  • 07-04-16

Seminal

A compendium of the rather marvellous and understated spys adventures vaucluse brought to life by Simon Russell Beale and the BBC. All the acting is great. Couldn't be happier with it.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • D. Searle
  • 08-01-16

Best audiobook for some time!

Clear speaking voices; heard and understood every word; storylines were perfectly dramatised and paced, allowing total immersion.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mr. E. A. Shanks
  • 07-21-16

BBC brings Smiley to life

The cast of these radio plays bring the world of George Smiley to life. Right from the first moment you will be hooked.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jeremy
  • 10-28-17

A product Of it's time

I remember the days when the BBC dramsatised stories but they never work as well as a good narrator. The sound effects sound amateurish compared with a description of what is happening.

I live in Thailand part of the year and the use of almost comic Chinese accents for Thai people was especially jarring. Today these would be considered patronising and racist.

The stories themselves are quite good but some are depressing as the whistful memories of an old man

3 of 3 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
  • Christine
  • 11-17-16

Engaging

This was, of course, brilliant because it
came from the famed BBC drama department. It was well produced and extremely well acted. However, I did find it a little confusing to follow at times and it required a lot of concentration to try and follow the story and which character was talking. I think I would have followed the stories better if I'd listened to a narration of the books rather than the interpretation of those stories through play.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • M.Chuzzlewit
  • 10-27-16

Compelling listening, great dramatisation.

I was really engrossed in this cold war espionage series. The writing is generally taut with some of the stories more compelling than others, but all were Top shelf in their field if a little fatalistic in tone, which may be an accurate reflection on the "craft' by a firmer operative. The only let down for me was in 'the honourable schoolboy's, in my opinion, the weakest of the Geaorge Smiley novels, where the Chinese, Vietnamese and American accents sounded jarringly inauthentic and contrived. The rest of the acting was excellent. Perhaps the BBC might have used a native-speaking actor for those parts.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-21-18

Le Carre dramatisation at its best

Le Carre’s best characters brought to life in their original context - from London to Berlin, Paris, Moscow, Vientiane, and the jungles of Cambodia - the stories are compelling, the performances convincing. Brilliant and clumsy espionage from the 1940s to 1990s. Listening theatre!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-02-17

Good Radio Play

BBC Radio Play, Good cast, Good Actor Playing Smiley. As with all abridged works i yearn for the detail. but overall a good listen. Particularly if you have not read the original works.