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review 2018-07-20 16:04
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy / John Le Carré
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - John le Carré

A modern classic in which John le Carré expertly creates a total vision of a secret world, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy begins George Smiley's chess match of wills and wits with Karla, his Soviet counterpart.

It is now beyond a doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, the traitor must be destroyed.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

Well, you couldn’t get much further away from the playboy-spy image than this, could you? George Smiley, the chubby everyman who’s always polishing his glasses, is the antithesis of James Bond. Rather than Miss Moneypenny, there’s a whole department of women known as “the mothers.” And instead of posh casinos, George spends a lot of time in a run-down hotel, reading swathes of paper files.

This is spy work done through the archives, searching for patterns in the paperwork, and through careful interviews with those who have been betrayed and/or let go. We have hints that Smiley had his daring days when he was younger, but he’s now a middle-aged man using his intellect instead of his muscles, carefully piecing together the story. Sometimes he learns as much from what’s not said as from what is said. Plus, he’s reinvigorating his career—sacked because he sided with the wrong person (Control), he is getting his place in the biz back by figuring out which high-level Intelligence man is their Russian mole.

Double agents, backstabbing, and betrayal. What more can you ask for in a novel?

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review 2018-07-19 16:28
Even / Andrew Grant
Even - Andrew Grant

David Trevellyan is a Royal Navy intelligence operative who usually works undercover, sometimes with the approval of his masters—and sometimes not. On a seemingly normal evening, he takes a lonely late-night walk between a restaurant and his New York City hotel. A familiar huddled shape in the mouth of an alley catches his eye—a homeless man has been shot to death. Trevellyan steps forward…and a cop car arrives. A split second too late, Trevellyan realizes he’s been set up.

But Trevellyan isn’t worried. He’s a hard man from the shadowy world of Royal Navy Intelligence. He’s been in and out of trouble a thousand times before. But the NYPD quickly hands the problem to the FBI. Trevellyan is sucked deeper into the system. And the British Consulate tells him: You’re on your own now, mate.

With no idea who’s a friend and who’s a foe, he penetrates deep into a huge international conspiracy. The price of failure will be death, and the reward for success will be redemption, both for himself and the huddled corpse from the alley. The motivation will be his cherished life-long belief: You don’t get mad—you get EVEN.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

It’s nice when two different reading plans come together. I’m trying to read at least one book by each of the special guests coming to the When Words Collide conference in Calgary in August and I’m spending my summer concentrating on Spy fiction. So I was delighted to find out that Andrew Grant has written a spy trilogy.

If you are a fan of fantasy spy thrillers like The Bourne Identity or Ian Fleming’s fiction, I think you may also enjoy Grant’s adventures of David Trevellyan. If you lean more towards the John Le Carré or Len Deighton style, you may find this tale a bit ridiculous (as I did). Notably, this author is the younger brother of writer Lee Child of Jack Reacher fame (and he’s probably sick and tired of people pointing that out). Several years ago, my real-life book club read a Jack Reacher novel during our Year of Reading Fluff. We hooted with laughter, speculating about Reacher wearing his underwear inside out or backwards to make it last longer without a wash and were amused by the general unreality of his circumstances. In that regard, it is obvious that Grant and Child share DNA—you need to be expert at suspending disbelief to get into this one!

My biggest hurdle was the “evil genius” Lesley (a Bond type evil villain if there ever was one). This woman ran a supposedly intricate empire and kept her minions (all men) in line by threatening castration. In fact David Trevellyan actually witnesses one of these events about halfway through the book. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was a guy I wouldn’t be working for someone who punished her employees this way. I’m thinking she would need an all-female staff, as men would be gone as soon as the possibility was mentioned.

So, this is spy-fiction lite, as much fantasy as espionage. Lots of action, lots of violence, not much relation to reality. Dick lit, as opposed to chick lit. I will be very interested to hear Mr. Grant’s thoughts at the conference in August.

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review 2018-07-17 23:25
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger (audiobook)
Etiquette & Espionage - Gail Carriger,Moira Quirk

Series: Finishing School #1

 

This was a kind of cute young-adult steampunk story about a tomboy in possibly Victorian times (there's talk of a telegraph device and gas lighting) who gets packed off to finishing school to try to polish off her rougher edges. As it turns out, however, the finishing school in question is only teaching the finer aspects of moving about in society in order to create expert intelligence agents, which is much more to Sophronia's liking. She can get behind fashion choices when they're used for camouflage, basically.

 

So the concept is kind of cute and silly but also somewhat entertaining. Sophronia reminds me a little of Flavia de Luce although she's a bit older. I think I'll see if my library has the next one in the series.

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text 2018-07-16 17:52
Reading progress update: I've read 183 out of 381 pages.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - John le Carré

 

Ah, the title now makes some sense to me.

 

 

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text 2018-07-13 18:01
Reading progress update: I've read 299 out of 352 pages.
Even - Andrew Grant

"We've got two and a half hours left. Varley's going nuts. It's chaos. So much for well rehearsed protocols. More like setting a bunch of monkeys loose in a banana plantation."

 

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