Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre

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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a cold war spy thriller written by John le Carre. It follows the story of spymaster George Smiley. Who is trying to uncover a Soviet mole in the British secret service.



George Smiley, who is a troubled man of infinite compassion, is also a single-mindedly ruthless adversary as a spy. The scene which he enters is a Cold War landscape of moles and lamplighters, scalp-hunters and pavement artists, where men are turned, burned or bought for stock. Smiley’s mission is to catch a Moscow Centre mole burrowed thirty years deep into the Circus itself.


While this is technically just a review of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy the book, I’m also going to be talking quite a bit about the movie. I’ll let you decide for yourself if it can still be considered a book review. I’m also going to keep this as spoiler free as possible as you should really go into this book knowing as little as you can.

The thing that struck me most about Tinker Tailor is that it reminded me of Cloud Atlas. Now I don’t mean that in the stories are similar. I mean the overall story can be enjoyed in two very different ways. Either through the book or the movie. And the interesting thing is there is no better version of the story.

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Both are very different takes on the same thing. You can read the book and by doing so get something more out of the movie and in return you can watch the movie and get more out of the book. Some bloggers would probably argue at this point that you should read the book first because that came first. But this story is one of those interesting things where you need read and watch both multiple times to get the full enjoyment.


I almost feel strange reviewing a spy thriller book because I have never been able to work out if I actually like this genre. And after reading this I think I have worked it out. I loved this book. I loved it for the fact that it’s a very character driven story. The whole mystery is solved through Smiley talking to people.

Now you can compare this so some other thriller books which are really more CSI: Mystery Thing where the story is solved by finding evidence and doing the science stuff that points to the bad guy. I much prefer the character focused stories and this in particular has made me want to read more like it.

Now I’m not going to talk about the end too much, but suffice to say I have watched the movie at least 8 times (it took me that many rewatches just to understand what was going on) and I was still blown away by the ending in the book. Nothing was significantly different.

One good thing about Tomas Alfredson’s movie adaptation is it stays very close to the original story. But despite knowing what was going to happen, I was still amazed by it actually happening. I’m guessing most of you guys know how it ends. I mean the book has been out for 40 years, there must be some statute of limitations on spoilers.

Anyway if you like mysteries read this one.


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