A Perfect Spy

John le Carré

Illustrated by Sam Green

John le Carré’s extraordinary spy thriller features eight colour illustrations by artist Sam Green, as well as a special illustrated slipcase. The perfect collector’s edition of A Perfect Spy.

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‘Le Carré understood that espionage is an extreme version of the human comedy, even the human tragedy. A Perfect Spy will very likely remain his greatest book.’
  1. New Yorker

Widely regarded as John le Carré’s masterpiece, A Perfect Spy is also the author’s most autobiographical work, drawing on his own early life and experiences. The result is a novel that is both a thrill ride of interconnected mysteries, and a moving portrayal of a life marked by subterfuge and betrayal. For this first ever illustrated edition, The Folio Society and artist Sam Green worked closely with the le Carré estate to ensure that the illustrations captured all the novel’s tension and poignancy. When talking about the book, le Carré commented: ‘Although I've never been to a shrink, writing A Perfect Spy is probably what a very wise shrink would have advised me to do’. This very special novel represents a chance not only to read one of the greatest spy stories every written, it also provides an opportunity to get to know one of our greatest writers a little better.

Bound in screen-printed and blocked cloth

Set in Imprint with Laima as display

608 pages

Integrated black-and-white title-page illustration plus 8 full-page colour illustrations

Black page tops

Printed and blocked slipcase

9½˝ x 6¼˝

Full of all the tension and twists anyone could want from spy thrillers, le Carré’s exquisitely written novels stand out from the crowd for their understanding of human drama and internal conflict. Written with a great deal of wit and with an affectionate eye for its cast of characters, A Perfect Spy doesn’t shy away from the anguish caused by a life built on a foundation of lies. Each of Sam Green’s illustrations are expertly composed to heighten the drama of the novel. Green’s rendering of one particularly fateful meeting in a barn is fraught with tension – even the shadows seem to hint at danger and double-crosses. With a striking binding design and a special illustrated slipcase, this is an irresistible edition of le Carré’s most personal novel.

‘You could be the perfect spy. All you need is a cause.’

Magnus Pym is a spy at the top of his game. His wife and son adore him, his handler trusts him, and the competition respect him. After a rocky period, his prospects are looking better than ever. But when his father dies, Pym vanishes. Those left in his wake scramble for answers, while in a nondescript boarding house in an anonymous town, Pym begins to write his own story, peeling back the layers of his life word by word. From his chaotic beginnings as the son of an infamous con man to his first tentative missions, each part of Pym’s history holds a wealth of secrets, and those who thought they knew him best are about to discover just how dangerous the perfect spy can be.

John le Carré is the nom de plume of David John Moore Cornwell, who was born in 1931 in Poole, Dorset. He was educated at Sherborne School, at the University of Berne (where he studied German literature for a year) and at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he graduated with a first-class honours degree in modern languages. He taught at Eton from 1956 to 1958 and was a member of the British Foreign Service from 1959 to 1964, serving first as Second Secretary in the British Embassy in Bonn and subsequently as Political Consul in Hamburg. He started writing novels in 1961. His third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963; Folio Society 2017) secured him worldwide acclaim, which was further consolidated by the success of his trilogy Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974; Folio Society 2009), The Honourable Schoolboy (1977; Folio Society 2010) and Smiley’s People (1979; Folio Society 2006). Le Carré went on to write several standalone novels, as well as the George Smiley series and a memoir. He died on 12 December 2020.

Sam Green is a London-based artist whose illustrations fuse hand-drawn and digital techniques. His clients have included media organisations such as the New York Times and the BBC, musicians such as Jennifer Lopez and Frank Ocean, and a number of major international book publishers. Sam's personal work focuses on the creation of large-scale multimedia artworks on paper.


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