Tag: Benedict Cumberbatch

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré

Posted January 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Thriller / 0 Comments

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréTitle: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Goodreads)
Author: John le Carré
Series: George Smiley #5
Published: Sceptre, 2009
Pages: 422
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is my second John le Carré novel, the first being The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (which I may need to read again). I remember never really feeling the need to go out and read some more, which would have been a huge mistake. My reasoning for reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was mainly came from the need to have the book read before seeing the movie adaption. John le Carré does a great job writing complex spy plots, but sometimes it gets too confusing and makes it hard to keep up.

The story follows George Smiley (le Carré’s most famous protagonist), a retired intelligence officer working for MI6 (often referred to as “The Circus”) on a quest to discover a mole within the organisation. The characters in the book are so well written, I had to admire the way they all seem so secretive and full of mystery. This is what I expect from a spy novel and John le Carré does a brilliant job in handling them on paper. There is a fine line in how to handle characters like this; too much one way they feel over the top and cheesy and too much the other the mystery will be gone.

The complexity of a novel like this does cause a bit of an issue but in the end isn’t that what you really want? With the twists and turns, you are left never really sure what everyone’s motivations are. John le Carré has a way of under developing characters but never in a way you are annoyed by it; the idea is to keep so much of someone’s character a mystery, with inconsistences that it makes them feel like a real spy. It’s an interesting technique, one that wouldn’t work in most other genres.

Have to give John le Carré credit for the way he builds atmosphere, in a complex plot with numerous characters he still manages to bring a glimpse of London life. Not being to London before, I couldn’t tell you how realistic his depiction is but it feels real. Another thing he does really well is dialogue, nothing feels forced or fake; it all feels seamless and natural.

Now the movie adaptation of this film was particularly interesting. Having read the book beforehand, I really enjoyed it. I had an idea of what was going on, but my wife didn’t, she struggled with the plot. Personally I think overly complex plots make for better spy movies and books, but I think it really helped to have read the book before seeing this adaptation. It was a faithful and enjoyable movie full of all you expect from the book and Benedict Cumberbatch with bad hair.

I’m not going to rush out and read a John le Carré novel anytime soon, but I will come back to him at a later date. I did enjoy this novel; I just feel that the complexity makes it a very difficult book to read. I will have to take my time with his novels, but I’m excited to see what happens in his other books. I’m not sure where to start, do I just read a recommendation, start at the start of the series or just check out his latest book?


House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

Posted March 3, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 6 Comments

House of Silk by Anthony HorowitzTitle: House of Silk (Goodreads)
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Published: Mulholland Books, 2011
Pages: 294
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

A fine art dealer comes begging for Sherlock’s help, as he has been menaced by a strange man; a wanted man that has followed him all the way from America. Art dealer named Edmund Carstairs then finds his home robbed, family threatened and then his client murdered. Unwillingly Holmes and Watson find themselves in a conspiracy connecting London to the Boston underground by an opium den known as the House of Silk.

For the first time in One hundred and twenty five years the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate have officially authorised a Sherlock Holmes novel. Anthony Horowitz’s novel tries to capture the style and feel of the original Sherlock novels but I never really felt that he got Arthur Conan Doyle’s style right. It felt stripped back and less complex than the Sherlock novels I’ve actually read and then there is a slight modernisation to the writing that can be very difficult to hide.

Watson is back as the unreliable narrator documenting their adventures, while the mystery and conspiracy in House of Silk are well plotted and play out rather well. I tend to think this is more of a Robert Downey Jnr’s style Sherlock Holmes rather than the Conan Doyle one.  Diehard fans will probably enjoy another adventure but I can’t help but wonder if this book would be better played out with some original characters.

House of Silk came off rather dull in parts and while I haven’t read many Sherlock novels I can’t help but compare it with the ones I have read and Anthony Horowitz’s attempt was close but never felt the same. Tiny little things like the phrase “the game is afoot” being changed to “the game’s afoot” really helped show the differences.

While I did enjoy House of Silk as a novel, I don’t think there was anything spectacular about it. While this an officially authorised Sherlock novel (debatable, Caleb Carr’s The Italian Secretary and Lyndsay Faye’s Dust and Shadow are both approved by the estate) it is not the same. I think I would rather read a Benedict Cumberbatch style Sherlock novel rather than another attempt at trying to replicate Conan Doyle’s style and plots.