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Smiley's last Laugh

Books | By Michael Barber | November issue


A Legacy of Spies By John Le Carré

‘We be tied and bound by the chain of our sins,’ says The Book of Common Prayer, hence the predicament that befalls Peter Guillam, George Smiley’s stalwart sidekick in ‘the Circus’. Long since retired to his farmstead in Brittany, he is summoned to London, on pain of losing his pension, to spill the beans on Windfall, the ‘fiendishly intricate deception operation’ that did for Alec Leamas, ‘the spy who came in from the cold’, and his girlfriend Liz. The files on Windfall have vanished and, meanwhile, Leamas’s son and Liz’s daughter, armed with incriminating evidence from the Stasi’s archives, are determined to prove that the Circus connived at their parents’ deaths, thus provoking a witch-hunt that will run and run all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. Arriving at MI6’s ‘shockingly ostentatious’ Thameside pile, Guillam is confronted by Bunny and Laura, a pair of insolent apparatchiks who...

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