The title refers to a wake up call for the dead man that is received the morning after he died. This call comes to his home, and Smiley answers the phone. This convinces Smiley that the man did not commit suicide, even though all of the evidence points towards suicide. He insists on investigating further, against the wishes of Maston. This book introduces us to Peter Guillam and Inspector Mendel, who work with Smiley on the case; both have roles in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It also has the first appearance of Mundt, who features prominently in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Sergio of Tipping My Fedora noted the connection to Call for the Dead, which I had forgotten entirely. Now, after going back and re-reading it, I do see that this book is a good introduction to the later books.
However, it did take me another nine years to come back to le Carré's after reading Call for the Dead the first time. I did not dislike the book on the first read, but I don't think I was terribly impressed. Now, after reading several other of the Smiley books, I had an entirely different reaction.
This time I found Call for the Dead clever and compelling, a very short novel with a lot of depth for its length. It is primarily a detective story, and Smiley's ability to analyze and evaluate facts is highlighted. But it is also set within the framework of MI6 operations and its bureaucracy.
Having now read the first five books featuring Smiley, I find myself confused at the time line of the books overall, and from what I have read at other blogs, I am not the only one. It doesn't really matter for the enjoyment of the books, but I have a mind that likes to organize things, so I keep trying to figure it out. Are all the books told in the order of Smiley's career? It seems like every book I have read mentions Smiley coming back out of retirement. The first chapter in the book is devoted to an overview of Smiley's career, and you would think this would straighten out the time line but it did not help.
Also see these posts:
- Sergio's review at Tipping My Fedora
- Tanner's review at Double O Section
- Margot's In the Spotlight at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...
Publisher: Pocket Books, 2002 (orig. pub. 1961)
Length: 144 pages
Format: Trade paperback
Series: George Smiley novel
Genre: Spy thriller
Source: I purchased this book.