The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

A George Smiley Novel, Book 3
Narrated by: Michael Jayston
Series: Smiley, Book 3
Length: 7 hrs
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,132 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A number-one New York Times best seller for 34 weeks and the book that launched John le Carré's career worldwide.

In the shadow of the newly erected Berlin Wall, Alec Leamas watches as his last agent is shot dead by East German sentries. For Leamas, the head of Berlin Station, the Cold War is over. As he faces the prospect of retirement or worse - a desk job - Control offers him a unique opportunity for revenge. Assuming the guise of an embittered and dissolute ex-agent, Leamas is set up to trap Mundt, the deputy director of the East German Intelligence Service - with himself as the bait. In the background is George Smiley, ready to make the game play out just as Control wants.

Setting a standard that has never been surpassed, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a devastating tale of duplicity and espionage.

©1963; 1991 le Carre Productions; David Cornwell (P)2012 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great novel, but not Smiley...

I really love the novels of John le Carre, especially the Karla series. This may be le Carre's best work - better even than the Karla novels. The vertiginous manipulations, the moral ambiguities, the uncomfortable compromises made by the protagonist Alec Leamas, make this a gripping story with existential reverberations, even 50 years after it was first published.

If the ending of "Smiley's People" is a victory with chilling implications for the human soul, then the ending of this novel is a crushing defeat with hopeful inspiration for the individual. Nothing is ever as it seems in le Carre's best work, and that is doubly true here.

One note: even though it's listed as part of the Smiley series, George Smiley is barely even a minor character in this book - more of a shadowy emanation, and one which hints at another side of his identity.

28 people found this helpful

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Great Book

What made the experience of listening to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold the most enjoyable?

John Le Carre is my favourite author and I have read most of his books including this one and I enjoyed the audio version just as much as the written one.

The narrator was excellent and the story was engrossing right from the beginning.

Highly recommend it specially if you are a fan of Le Carre.

What other book might you compare The Spy Who Came in from the Cold to and why?

Books narrated by Will Payton

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

No

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

not really - I like to stretch out the good books so I enjoy it longer rather than finishing them in one sitting

11 people found this helpful

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Great spy story

The story is wonderful and the narrator did a great job. The foreign accents could have been distracting, but the reader did very well with them and made them an integral part of the story. This was a good use of a credit.

7 people found this helpful

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A complex and intriguing story

What did you love best about The Spy Who Came in from the Cold?

The plot was most enjoyable. I envisioned Richard Burton in each scene, since I had previously viewed the movie.

What other book might you compare The Spy Who Came in from the Cold to and why?

Perhaps "The Day of the Jackal." Both books were very thoughtful and precise in articulating the characters.

Which scene was your favorite?

The opening scene with the spy crossing the check point.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No.

Any additional comments?

I would state that LeCarre is a thinking person's author.

7 people found this helpful

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Gritty, real world cold war feel

Would you consider the audio edition of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold to be better than the print version?

I generally do prefer audiobook versions to print versions nowadays, though it is a great experience to be able to have time to sit down and read a great novel.

What other book might you compare The Spy Who Came in from the Cold to and why?

Seems trite, but Casino Royale, the original Bond by Ian Fleming. This book is more grounded in realism and gritty, and loss of life, etc. However, the time period is very reminiscent in each.

Which scene was your favorite?

The recollection of Limas about the recruitment of the German spy in Berlin's Presidium secretariat.

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

At the realistic-seeming finish, where no one swoops in and saves the world, ala James Bond, I started out with an initial disappointed feeling, and then realized that how I felt was exactly what the author wanted us to feel.

4 people found this helpful

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His Best Book

I believe this to be the best of Le Carres' George Smiley books. Jayston was an excellent narrator

4 people found this helpful

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Almost made me a John le Carré fan

Any additional comments?

I'm not really a spy novel fan but I heard such raves about the Karla Trilogy and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (and espionage from mother Russia seems so relevant this season) that I decided to take the plunge. For the Karla Trilogy I had the audio books narrated by David Case/Frederick Davidson. Only unbelievable stubbornness kept me going. I don't know when I have ever had such difficultly tracking the plot of a book. At some point I downloaded the ebooks so I could just read for myself and that seemed to help.

So it was with reluctance that I picked up this last John le Carré on my list. Maybe it was just an easier book but I must credit the narrator. Way more engaging, way easier to track what's going on even with several crosses and double crosses.

I think I am probably done reading John le Carré (or spy novels in general) for a while. I appreciate the spotlight on amorality but not so much the casual sexism. Say all you want but about Alec Leamas being the anti-James Bond but le Carré's women often seem as multi-dimensional as your average Bond girl. But if I do decide to pick one up again I will know that this is the narrator to go for.

6 people found this helpful

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Almost lost an entire night's sleep

I am not a lover of the espionage genre, but a special deal from Audible and high ratings made me take the plunge. So, I started with Book 1 in the George Smiley series and will end with it here. Definitely worth the listen and wonderfully narrated by Michael Jayston. Don't expect much action, this is a book of words/dialogue. No one is who you think......

2 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

Any additional comments?

Great book, terse, bleak, but plot moves along briskly and the characters are well fleshed out. Much shorter, and in every way a different book to than, say, The honorable schoolboy, but it shares many characteristics still.

2 people found this helpful

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Quite Solid, worth a Listen

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

The plot kept me guessing. You really get to like the main character and there are twists that seem obvious but you can't quite figure out until the end. The story does end a bit abruptly with an epilogue - I feel like it needed a half a chapter just to tie things up a bit.

What about Michael Jayston’s performance did you like?

The performance is very good, changing voices even genders, makes it clear who is speaking, even during long conversations.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Not easy to turn off, but chapter's are sufficently long that you don't feel ashamed to stop for a period - almost like the end of an episode - not quite cliffhangers, but definately more questions to be answered.

2 people found this helpful