Picks and Pans Review: Smiley's People

updated 01/07/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/07/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

by John Le Carré

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)

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