[This is Day 10 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]
What It Is: A spy novel set during the Cold War that is more a psychological thriller than a James-Bond-like adventure story. In this story, Alec Leamas, a British intelligence agent is sent “over the wall” to run a counter-intelligence op against a high-ranking East German spook. Soon, Leamas begins to wonder which side he really can trust, if any.
Why You Should Read It: This is the third novel in LeCarre’s “Smiley” series, technically speaking, though George Smiley is at most a background presence in this story. LeCarre’s tales of Cold War spycraft are incredibly grounded and almost mundane (at least, compared to Ian Fleming’s flash-bang approach), but this provides a sense of realism and real stakes. The fact that LeCarre may or may not have real-world experience in such matters certain adds to it. But this particular selection of his works is an easy and engaging entrypoint to the world of Smiley and “the Circus,” and the battle of wits and psychological sparring between Leamas and his German counterparts transform extended scenes of two guys talking across a table into a high-tension pot-boiler. All of this leads up to a final scene that is riveting and memorable. If you want to dip your toes into some classic genre fiction, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold is a great place to start.