"... What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs? They're a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their lives. Do you think they sit like monks in London, balancing the rights and wrongs? ..."
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is a spy thriller novel by John Le Carre. It was written in 1963, and is an exemplary example of a great spy novel. The novel is quite easy to follow, but the plot keeps on getting thicker as one continues on. Le Carre is best known for his novels with the spy strategist George Smiley, and this is the third book that has this famous character. However, Smiley is only a small character in this novel.
Karl Riemeck is dead. Karl was Alec Leamas's last agent in East Berlin. Now, his best and last agent is dead. Britain's agency in East Berlin is folded up, and Leamas is sent back to report to Control. Control offers him a chance to get back at the man who killed his agents, Mundt. A covert operation that will run on multiple levels of deception, one that Leamas could die in. An operation in which he will be able to kill off Mundt. Leamas gladly accepts. His mission is to make it seem that he's been thrown out of the organization, and has detiorated to the point of becoming a defector. Leamas fits into the role so easily, perhaps a minor error or two, but the plan should go through. However, there is something odd about this mission, about the amount of money Leamas was offered for the mission.
This is perhaps the most realistic sounding spy novel that I have ever read. Everything is quite simple, because once things get elaborate they are more delicate. Leamas is quite understandable in both his personality and his choice of career. With Le Carre's work one also gets spies talking philosophy, how they can do what they do and have it make sense to their morals.