This story, set during the cold war, is about a British spy, Leamas, who is controlling the spy actions against the east block (or ?zone?) from West-Berlin. After he lost one agent after the other to his opponent Mundt of the counter-espionage of the ?party?, he returns back to London where he and Control (a man of high rank in the British espionage network) come up with a plot against Mundt. Their Plan was to get Leamas to ?betray? London and sell information to his opponent which indirectly accused Mundt of being a London agent. They hoped that a man named Fiedler, who hates and works with Mundt and is probably just waiting for a chance like this, will catch on and together with the information he?s going to obtain from Leamas and the information he has already obtained himself will successfully accuse Mundt of betrayal. To the outside it should look as if Leamas was fired due to his failures and would start to become an alcoholic.
He then went jobbing and ended up working as a Library assistant, where he meets Liz, a young woman who is also working at the Library. The two become lovers and Leamas finds out that she is part of the ?party?. He then starts a fight with a shop owner and ends up in prison, all of this was part of a big plan to get Fiedler to come to Leamas and not vice versa. The plan is successful and Fiedler comes into contact with Leamas and interrogates him. He is then brought to East-Germany where he is used as a witness during a secret trial against Mundt. Everything is successful until the defence calls Liz up as a witness. Leamas doesn?t know how they found out about her and the trial fails as he, through his actions, told Liz a little to much and as they didn?t tell her what the case was she couldn?t, although she wanted to, accuse Mundt or defend Leamas as she didn?t know if and what he was accused for. Leamas is then imprisoned as well as Fiedler and Liz. During the night Leamas and Liz are freed and brought to a car by Mundt, who tells them that he is really a London agent and this whole thing was planned to stop suspicion as Fiedler was getting very close to finding out his secret. He tells them that they thought it was safer if they didn?t know and he sends a man with them to help them over the wall. As Leamas is just on top of the wall and stretches out a hand to help Liz up, the lights go on and Liz is shot. She was a risk which Mundt didn?t want to take. Leamas then didn?t jump over the wall but jumped back to Liz and is shoot shortly after her.
Leamas is a short man with close, iron-grey hair and the physique of a swimmer. He is very strong which one could see in the powerful back of his shoulders, in his neck and in his hands and fingers. Some people say that he looks very Irish but it is hard to really place him. He is divorced and there were children which are now in their teens. Leamas himself is around fifty now. And all through the book people always mention that they notice that he is a proud man. Another characteristic which the reader notices is that he is very perfect about the things he does. For example when he is interrogated his story is perfect and gains just the effect that he wants. A main point he has is that Mundt wasn?t their man but through some ?by the way? details he gets Fiedler suspicious and gives him the facts he needs to accuse Mundt.
Hans-Dieter Mundt was born forty-two years ago in Leipzig and is hated even within his own department. He is a Nazi and especially hates Jews. The only interests he has are his own and he will even kill to achieve them. Two examples of that are when he needed to return to Germany from a mission in a hurry he killed two of his own men just to save his own skin. After joining the ?Abteilung? he is very successful and when several men were dismissed Mundt, at age of forty-one, became deputy director of operations and Fiedler became head of counter intelligence. From then on the new style began and Leamas was loosing agents faster than he could recruit them.
Fiedler, also a short man, is a Jew and therefore hated by Mundt. This of course causes aggressions from Fiedler as well and when checking Mundt?s files he gets suspicious and starts to become more careful with Mundt. He noticed that Mundt killed captured British spy?s long before they could be interrogated by Fiedler but never really got enough proof to accuse him. Due to Mundt?s great success Fiedler also had to be careful with his accusations as well. While he interrogated Leamas, Leamas at first shows great hatred against him but then starts to like him. Fiedler is very good at interrogating and gets out a lot of information from Leamas. What he doesn?t know though, is that Leamas is extremely good as well and without him noticing Leamas makes him do what Britain wants him to, accuse Mundt.
An important episode is when Leamas and Liz are driving away from the East towards the wall. They talk about the spy work and especially the plan. Liz can?t understand that London as part of their plan, lets innocent people die. For example Fiedler who is now going to be killed because he falsely accused a ?good? member of the party. She claims that he was the only nice person in the Abteilung and that he just did his job. She also realises that she is endangered as well and wonders why Mundt took such a risk in letting her know that he is a London agent. Leamas tells her that he doesn?t like it as well but seems to accept it and calls it a ?victim of war?. Liz believes that he is trying to convince himself and he says that he is sick of all the killing. In this episode, John Le CarrÃÂ© describes extremely well what debate goes on in the mind of a spy like Leamas and he discuses the ethic of espionage and the cold war.
The reader is left unknown of the real truth I enjoyed reading this book as it is not only very exiting and therefore quick to read but also interesting as it says that during the cold war only the killers survived and many innocent people died. Once a person like Leamas starts to dislike his job and wonders about the ethic of it, he is endangering his life and if he is in action he will probably make mistakes due to this weakness. It also explains how the ?big? people used other people for their own purposes and didn?t care about them but only about themselves and their own interests. Altogether I believe it is a very good book, at the beginning a little confusing but explanatory in the end (I thought), and it is a ?must-read? for anyone who enjoys reading spy stories.