In honor of John le Carré’s latest novel A Legacy of Spies going on sale, we felt a survey of the author’s best contributions to the spy novel and literature in general was called for. As always, this list is objectively correct—disagreement is admission of aesthetic fault and personal deficiency.
- I, Spy from the London Eye (2006)
Sarah Palin would have been proud of this outing, in which novice spy Nigel Mansley witnesses Russians up to no good from a stalled capsule at the top of the London Eye. Nigel’s harrowing climb down the rigging of the Eye, subsequent arrest, trial, and eventual parole are some of the best sequences in le Carré’s non-Smiley work.
- Terrorism Starts with Tea (2005)
This novel was our first taste of the Carré in the age of terrorism. The feelings of claustrophobic paranoia and confined anxiety are only matched by the novel’s tight, almost hemmed in, sense of frightened jingoism. Lots of questions are asked here, dear readers; few are answered.
- Spy-solated Incident (1996)
A rare turn for the Carré, this is a literary adaptation of the film Spy Hard. Its “flights of fancy” did not sit well with the pioneer of espionage literature; this novel portrays a more grounded take on agent Dick Steele saving the Earth from a maniacal Andy Griffith.
- Smile! You’re on CCTV! (1975)
The seminal George Smiley novel, other than The Karla trilogy, The Secret Pilgrim and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, this underrated masterpiece delivers on all fronts and then some. Smiley must contend with a KGB agent who keeps appearing on various closed circuit camera feeds across London. The mid-novel reveal that the KGB agent is in fact a lost Vladimir Nabokov propels the novel to even greater heights of intrigue, provided it hasn’t been spoiled beforehand.
- Indubitably Dubious (1969)
John the Carré made his name with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, but he made his legacy with this stellar sequel. In it, Alec Lemans teams up with undercover agent Graham Hill to prevent the Russians from developing a super-motor capable of near-light speed transit. High speed chases through rural France and Indianapolis, Indiana will ensure this globe-trotting tome leaves you breathless.