"The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" has been publicized as the greatest work of spy fiction ever written and also John Le Carre's greatest novel. Le Carre told the story of Alec Leamus, the British agent who is ultimately double-crossed by his own side, with clarity and distinction, not an easy task. Espionage novels are generally difficult to read, and I assume, even more difficult to write. The plots must be very carefully planned out in order for the author to describe all of the double-crossing, backstabbing, twists and turns necessary without confusing the reader so much that they just give up. Le Carre does this brilliantly. There is not a wasted word throughout this entire novel. Words or actions that seem insignificant at the time end up proving to have a distinct purpose later on.
Le Carre is very careful throughout in making sure that the reader only knows as much as Leamus knows.
Every shock to Leamus comes as an equal shock to the reader. This makes the intricate plot, and therefore the characters, all the more believable and allows the reader to constantly come up with ideas about what may be happening before they are blown away by the realization of the truth at the end.
Throughout the novel, although Leamus is essentially playing the part of the disgraced outcast, we are able to see his transformation as a character. As an international spy, he has been trained to be void of feeling, to watch his friends die and to kill others without flinching. When he meets Liz, he is unable to keep his wall up continuously and we are shown a more emotional, caring side to him. When it is finally time for him to move to the next phase of his assignment, that...