Reading Club: The Spy Who Came in From The Cold (1.4)

In the Reading Club series, we read books together, enjoy them, and learn from them.

This is the fourth part of John le Carré‘s The Spy Who Came in From The Cold.

Chapter 1: Checkpoint


That damned woman, thought Leamas, and that fool Karl, who’d lied about her. Lied by omission, as they all do, agents the world over. You teach them to cheat, to cover their tracks, and they cheat you as well. He’d only produced her once, after that dinner in the Schürzstrasse last year. Karl had just had his big scoop and Control had wanted to meet him. Control always came in on success. They’d had dinner together — Leamas, Control and Karl. Karl loved that kind of thing. He turned up looking like a Sunday school boy, scrubbed and shining, doffing his hat and all respectful.

Control had shaken his hand for five minutes and said: “I want you to know how pleased we are, Karl, damn pleased.” Leamas had watched and thought, that’ll cost us another couple of hundred a year.

When they’d finished dinner Control pumped their hands again, nodded significantly and, implying that he had to go off and risk his life somewhere else, got back into his chauffeur-driven car. Then Karl had laughed, and Leamas had laughed with him, and they’d finished the champagne, still laughing about Control. Afterwards they’d gone to the Alter Fass; Karl had insisted on it and there Elvira was waiting for them, a forty-year-old blonde, tough as nails.

“This is my best kept secret, Alec,” Karl had said, and Leamas was furious. Afterwards they’d had a row.

“How much does she know? Who is she? How did you meet her?” Karl sulked and refused to say. After that things went badly. Leamas tried to alter the routine, change the meeting places and the catchwords, but Karl didn’t like it. He knew what lay behind it and he didn’t like it…

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