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Spy novel well worth reading

By David Rak

A Legacy of Spies, by John le Carre.

The author (the name is a pseudonym) worked in the British secret service, so he knows what he is doing writing so-called spy novels.

He has written many of them, and his handling of the English language is impeccable, not least due to impressive qualifications. His books have earned him many accolades.

Here, he paints a picture of two young spy-hunters in London whose job it is to trawl through a murky cold-war past and find out just who did what.

They are rude, crude and unpleasant, and our hero, Peter Guillam, long retired from his spying role, attempts to deflect their well-documented probes and keep his secrets.

They want answers, and he is reluctant to give them, since they involve lies, betrayals, and quite possibly the loss of his own freedom.

The story is set mostly in pre Berlin-wall Europe, involving secret anti-Soviet Union intelligence, those who are trying to maintain it, and those trying to subvert it.

Television, radio reconnaissance and travel were all naïve by our current standards, with antiquated phones and unsophisticated transport (much of it public) in Berlin, a city whose scars from WWII were still in evidence.

Eventually, changed last-minute plans involving an ancient, unreliable vehicle and heavily snowed roads make for an exciting chase.

And when the wall eventually went up, things were even riskier for the British secret service, it appears.

Back in London, our hero is also threatened by people who were children in his working days, but are now adults bent on getting answers and revenge for the apparently deliberate betrayal of their parents.

If one was thinking of a career in espionage, this book may well be a deterrent.

Nevertheless, it is beautifully written, and well worth reading.

Lee Stephenson.