In Review

John Le Carre's new George Smiley novel: What to expect

Spy-fiction master resurrects his most famous character and 'the Circus' in a 'thrilling' new tale

John Le Carre

John Le Carre is bringing his much-loved spy character George Smiley in from the cold with a new novel titled A Legacy of Spies.

The 85-year-old author, famous for books such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People, which drew on his own experiences with MI5 and MI6, will release the new novel in September.

Publisher Viking Books says A Legacy of Spies is "as ingenious and thrilling" as the previous Smiley books. 

It tells the story of Smiley's colleague Peter Guillam and sees the return of a number of his contacts from the British secret service – or "the Circus", as it is known in the novels.

Few details have been released, but it seems the former spies are under fire for past sins committed when the service employed questionable methods in its campaign against the Soviets.

Viking Books said: "Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinised under disturbing criteria by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications."

It is not known whether Smiley, who would be 100 today, according to the books' timeline, appears in the story's present or only in flashback. The cool, reserved and lugubrious spy last appeared in The Secret Pilgrim, published in 1991, as the Cold War was drawing to a close.

Le Carre's agent, Jonny Geller, tells The Guardian the new book was written in "a fever" over the past 12 months and would "close George Smiley's story", which began in 1961, in the author's debut novel Call for the Dead.

He added: "When I received the draft, I had to keep starting it again and pinching myself that I was in the company of all these great characters from the Circus. It really is going to be one of his finest, if not his finest, novel."

The Daily Mail says the plot of A Legacy of Spies appears to reflect the real-life situation in Whitehall at the moment, with the paper highlighting a report by MPs warning that the Foreign Office's expertise in Russian affairs has "disintegrated" and urging the government to quickly recruit staff with knowledge of the Kremlin's habits.

There was further good news for fans of Le Carre with the announcement of a second series of the BBC's hit series The Night Manager, although the author's 1993 novel of the same name does not have a sequel. The broadcaster is also adapting his Smiley novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, which will be aired next year.

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