When the head of Britain's intelligence services learns that a former agent has been shot, he calls on George Smiley, his predecessor as chief, to go back out in the cold and find out why. In more than a half-dozen superior spy novels, Le Carré has used Smiley and other characters who appear here—but never to better advantage. By now the whole business of espionage has become discredited; even the government no longer believes in it. The new agents are bureaucrats, and only Smiley can run down Karla, the Soviets' brilliant and deadly spy chief. Smiley is old now, saddened by the unfaithfulness of his wife, but he utilizes all his experience in this assignment, even private, painful memories. If there's never another spy novel after this one, who could complain? Nobody does it better than Le Carré (Knopf, $10.95)
So who can afford to buy a house these days? Baseball free agents, oil company executives, folks named Rockefeller and that's about it. The following three books are especially timely, designed as they are to aid and comfort those who dwell in condos, co-ops or just plain flats.