SMILEY'S PEOPLE

Since writing the ultimate modern espionage fiction—The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and Tinker, Tailor. Soldier, Spy—rigorous Mr. le Carre has understandably been setting himself new challenges; and sometimes he almost seems to be daring his audience to enjoy him. But storytelling genius isn't something you can hide, and readers thrived on The Honourable Schoolboy despite its wide, densely Dickensian fabric—just as they will be mesmerized by this superb new book despite its purposefully quiet, slow, downright claustrophobic austerity. Of course, part of the magic for le Carre veterans will be their devotion to British Intelligence buddha George Smiley, who's now in "dubious retirement," a retirement ended when one of Smiley's "people"—a fierce old Russian-emigre agent put out to pasture by the new, detente-minded Intelligence chiefs—is shot on Hampstead Heath after trying to reach Smiley with crucial evidence of. . . something. Smiley, dispatched by the Circus bosses to cover it all up, naturally does the opposite. He talks to the dead agent's pals, to his own old Circus colleagues like crusty, dying Connie (with the computer-memory) and that itchy old dandy Toby Esterhase. He goes to Hamburg and stumbles on a dead body. He gathers clues: letters to the dead agent from an old Russian woman in Paris who's been threatened into providing a cover identity for an unnamed Soviet female; blackmail photos of Soviet diplomats involved in something unauthorized by their government. And, when all the pieces and nuances are tested and fitted and held up to the light, they lead to. . . Karla, Smiley's nemesis, the Soviet spy-master responsible for all of Smiley's marital and professional grief in Tinker, Tailor. But what Karla is up to this time isn't tradecraft: it's personal, so personal that he has been breaking Soviet rules left and right—he's trying to get his schizophrenic daughter, now in a Swiss asylum, safely settled in the psychiatrically sophisticated West. Will Smiley take advantage of this disconcertingly human vulnerability in his arch-enemy? He must—and the last section of the book (after all that gentle coiling) is the inexorable, step-by-step Switzerland entrapment of Karla's confederates by Smiley's people, a project seen through to its glorious but joyless goal: the enforced defection of Russia's top spy. As always, the narrative is grand, the dialogue is even better,, and best of all is the warm, sadly ironic intelligence that colors even the tiniest of encounters. But one warning: the Smiley books really must be read in order, not just for the sake of their secrets, but in order to feel the full swing and pull of le Carre's triumph—perhaps the greatest variety, texture, and integrity ever bestowed upon a series character.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 1979

ISBN: 014311977X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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