A Legacy of Spies
Viking, $32.99 pb, 320 pp, 9780241308554
Sherlock Holmes, fairly early on in his career, survived an attempt by Arthur Conan Doyle to kill off the character in ‘The Adventure of the Final Problem’. Although Conan Doyle had wanted to dispense with Holmes and write about something else, he bowed to the pressure to continue the great detective’s adventures that came from the many readers who refused to accept that Holmes had died in the duel with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls, or could ever die.
It is apparent from A Legacy of Spies that something similar has happened in relation to George Smiley. The rotund, socially awkward yet ruthlessly capable master spy was introduced by John le Carré in his début novel, Call for the Dead (1961). More than half a century later, Smiley remains le Carré’s most popular and enduring creation, though the author has for the most part written stories that concern other characters and situations. Of le Carré’s twenty-four published novels, Smiley appears in nine.