A Perfect Spy by John le Carre

Author John le Carre puts his experience with the British Foreign Service to good use in his British spy novels.

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A Perfect Spy by John le Carre


  • Mass Market Paperback: 688 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.13 x 6.76 x 4.19
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; (April 1, 2000)
  • ISBN: 0671042750

    Reader Reviews
    The End Before the Beginning, February 16, 2003 Reviewer: ransome22 from Baltimore, MD It seems that nary a used book sale is complete without a copy of A Perfect Spy holding court on crowded shelves with works of obscure fiction. Having often come across it during my own browsing, I finally picked up a copy (for free) to see if I had been missing out. I intend no harm with the statement, but the book was worth the price. I now see a measure of reason behind the myriad discarded copies. One might call this work a genre-bender as it is less a work of fictive espionage than it is a psychological profile of the protagonist, Magnus Pym. It is, at its core, an extended work in character development. At the beginning of the novel, spy Pym takes up residence in a seaside home to write his memoirs, and his disappearance causes a flurry of panic within the American and British intelligence communities. The grand majority of "the action" has already taken place, however, and is cryptically recounted in hindsight as Pym explores the influence of his father's business shenanigans upon his own character, chosen vocation, and penchant for deception. His style is so cryptic at times, and clarification from le Carre so wanting, that the reader can easily be left behind searching for clues as to time and context. It is a task to keep one's bearings as the narrative often shifts from past to present with little warning, while minor characters not seen for chapters surface suddenly with little hint as to where they were last seen. The name Wentworth, for example, surfaces within the first 100 pages then largely disappears for the rest of the novel until assuming a major role at the very end. There are some 150 to 160 major and minor characters in this book, some of which appear in both Pym's reminiscing and in the narrative present. The story is an unusual one as Pym's reminiscing seems to be preparing the reader for a more dynamic present. But by the time the reminiscing and the present intersect, the novel has ended. John le Carre is a gifted writer and story teller, but it seems this story has proven too difficult even for even him to tell, at least in the way he has chosen to tell it. A Perfect Spy is not a poorly written book, but it can be a bewildering one -- and one which seems to end just as it is getting started. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title

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