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The British Embassy in Bonn is up in arms. Her Majesty's financially troubled government is seeking admission to Europe's Common Market just as anti-British factions are rising to power in Germany. Rioters are demanding reunification, and the last thing the Crown can afford is a scandal. Then Leo Harting - an embassy nobody - goes missing with a case full of confidential files. London sends Alan Turner to control the damage, but he soon realizes that neither side really wants Leo found alive.
Set against the threat of a German-Soviet alliance, John le Carré's A Small Town in Germany is a superb chronicle of Cold War paranoia and political compromise.
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Recollects the Tension, Jingoism and Polarization
Michael Jayston is an excellent narrator. Some years ago I heard this same novel read by the author. Jayston's performance is much superior, and he helps to bring the story alive. His English dialects make the characters extremely vivid. Jayston is a professional actor (he played the role of Peter Guillam in the excellent British mini-series Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and his ability to read life into the book's characters is very enjoyable.
Although not a part of the George Smiley/Circus series of novels, this story could certainly take place in that world. Occurring mostly in the British embassy in Bonn, West Germany, the story has a claustrophobic quality not unlike The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. Harking back to Le Carre's earlier books, this is as much of a mystery as an espionage story, and the intriguing melding of the two genres will be perfected in his later masterpiece, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Class prejudice, bitter memories of the UK's past glories, fear of being caught in the middle between the extremes of America's mindless popular culture and the USSR's drive to dominate Europe, and simple human misunderstanding all play their part and make this story an examination of what drives an individual to make drastic and even self-destructive decisions.
Le Carre isn't known for his happy endings. However, I always leave his work with a feeling that I've come to know real people with real feelings and motivations. Their fates may not be happy, or even particularly deserved...but isn't life itself ambiguous?
- Scott Hammond
very good spy/mystery