Book Review - Call for the Dead by John le Carre
There are some authors who I know I would like if I started reading them, but I also know I'm certainly not lacking for reading material either. A good friend of mine finally convinced me to start reading John le Carre, the quintessential spy novelist. I have the distinct benefit of being able to start at the beginning of his body of work, that being Call for the Dead. I can now see why he's considered a master writer. I could learn much from his style, and I'll have a great time doing it.
le Carre introduces George Smiley in Call, a character that runs through many of his following novels. Quirky, methodical, and not the typical spymaster type, le Carre does an excellent job in painting a complete main character without taking one hundred pages to do so. In fact, the whole book is only 150 pages. He does much of Smiley's introduction in the opening chapter, and then just colors in more details as you go. Also, unlike many current novelists, he doesn't rely on non-stop, over-the top action to carry the story. He uses character, subtlety, and pacing to drive the plot, mixing in both espionage and mystery to uncover both "who dun it" and "who's working for who". As such, readers who are used to a breakneck pace may have a hard time slowing down to appreciate the more subtle aspects of his writing. But if you know that going in, and you realize you're stepping back nearly 50 years to the first work of a master, Call for the Dead is a great appetizer to what will be for me a multi-course feast over the next few months.