The Ipcress File

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What would happen if the Kremlin could bring off a plot to put its operatives in controlling positions in Her Majesty's government? Subjects, with the highest security clearance, who feed top level secrets directly to the East? It would mean, for England, almost certain destruction!

This gripping novel of international intrigue and espionage is not only a fascinating adventure but a superb close-up of the inner workings of a shadowy and fantastic profession. And because the ...

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The Ipcress File

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Overview

What would happen if the Kremlin could bring off a plot to put its operatives in controlling positions in Her Majesty's government? Subjects, with the highest security clearance, who feed top level secrets directly to the East? It would mean, for England, almost certain destruction!

This gripping novel of international intrigue and espionage is not only a fascinating adventure but a superb close-up of the inner workings of a shadowy and fantastic profession. And because the Russians enjoyed such success in real life penetrating British security, Len Deighton's fiction mirrors fact.

"An utterly thrilling headlong flight through terror, chaos, suspense and shock...You'll not forget it." (The Los Angeles Herald Examiner)

"A spy thriller which outbonds Bond." (The London Daily Express)

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
‘A spy story with a difference.’ Observer‘A master of fictional espionage.’ Daily Mail‘The poet of the spy story.’ Sunday Times‘The Ipcress File helped change the shape of the espionage thriller…the prose is still as crisp and fresh as ever…there is an infectious energy about this book which makes it a joy to read, or re-read.’ Daily Telegraph‘The self-conscious cool of Deighton’s writing has dated in the best way possible…a stone-cold cold war classic.’ Guardian‘Deighton is so far in the front of other writers in the field that they are not even in sight’ Sunday Times‘Nobody now seriously doubts that Deighton is the most credible of all the spysmiths’ The Scotsman‘Regarded as the cold war spy thriller that made all subsequent examples of the genre possible…however much of a classic the film is, the book is a completely different proposition. It’s more intricate and far superior…a must for anyone who likes this kind of fiction.’ Loaded
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345252814
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/12/1976
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback

Meet the Author

Born in London, he served in the RAF before graduating from the Royal College of Art (which recently elected him a Senior Fellow). While in New York City working as a magazine illustrator he began writing his first novel, ‘The Ipcress File’, which was published in 1962. He is now the author of more than thirty books of fiction and non-fiction. At present living in Europe, he has, over the years, lived with his family in ten different countries from Austria to Portugal.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 27, 2015

    more from this reviewer

    The Ipcress File actually preceded le Carre's The Spy Who Came I

    The Ipcress File actually preceded le Carre's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Although le Carre has been recognized as the man who elevated the spy thriller to serious literature, Len Deighton is more fun to read, at least in the WOOC(P) novels. Some critics have called him the Chandler of the spy novel. I actually think The Ipcress File is closer to one of Hammett's Op stories in which both the good and bad guys twist the scenario for their own purposes. “Harry Palmer” is a witty narrator but a fallible hero. The book is not perfect but it is memorable. I read it over 30 years ago but later gave my copy away. I am glad it and the other three WOOC(P) stories are back in print in the US.

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  • Posted September 19, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The Ipcress File is one of those novels that, burnished by the p

    The Ipcress File is one of those novels that, burnished by the passage of time and forgetfulness, is now considered to be a classic in its genre. It was supposedly quite the trendsetter back in 1962, taking on the themes of organizational betrayal using the voice of a working-class spy who has a chip on his shoulder regarding his betters. In the cold light of reappraisal, however, it doesn’t live up to its reputation.

    The setup: a semi-unnamed civil servant/spy (referred to once as “Harry”) has to chase down the disappearances of several British defense scientists, an investigation that quickly turns into a hairball that spans half the world and sees Our Hero framed for treason. Along the way, Our Hero discomfits a number of upper-class twits, crosses paths with what we’d now call a “fixer” who works multiple sides at once, and puts the moves on his comely assistant (who happens to be as useful as she is decorative).

    Deighton was never a spy, but rather a 1950s illustrator and ad man. As a result, his settings and descriptions of characters are more involved and painterly than is usually the case; you’ll never want for knowing what his cast and sets look like. The dialog is very of-the-moment, and Our Hero has a smart mouth on him. This is the good part.

    The not-so-good? This was Deighton’s first novel – the one that launched him into the top ranks of spy- and war-thriller writers – and it shows. The plot wanders off into side streets and gets distracted by shiny things, usually with no real urgency behind it. A long detour to a Pacific atoll destined to be an American atomic testing site feels more like a bid to grab onto a trendy exotic setting (as it would’ve been back then) rather than something that actually needed to happen there. For something billed as a thriller, there are (as usual for thrillers of the period) remarkably few thrills, while the spycraft, atmosphere and intrigue aren’t up to LeCarre standards. Even Our Hero’s relentless smart-assery wears after a while. One further caution, especially for American readers: if you’re not deeply steeped in late-1950s/early-1960s British popular culture, you’re going to be reading this with Wikipedia permanently open by your side. All these issues together left me wondering one thing upon re-reading this novel after [mumble] years: Is that it? This is the “classic” spy novel? Really?

    These days, our reactions to the novel The Ipcress File are most likely colored by the classic film The Ipcress File and Michael Caine’s emblematic star turn as Harry Palmer. This may be a case of the film being better than the book that inspired it. If you choose to read The Ipcress File today, especially if you’re drunk deeply from the well of LeCarre, be prepared to be let down. It’s like taking a time machine ride and instead of attending the Battle of Gettysburg or MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, you wind up at a dinner party with Millard Fillmore. Interesting, no doubt, but not at all what you were hoping for.

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