So...it's been a while since I've updated this. Sorry.
I'm going to start this review by saying that mystery/crime/whodunnit novels are not my cup of tea. On top of that, I've probably only read one "spy" novel before TTSS and that was a James Bond novel. And NOT an Ian Fleming one, but Sebastian Faulks' "Devil May Care". And I found that one to be 'blah' at best.
So I can say that I felt predispositioned to not like TTSS when I picked it up. But I was looking for something to read, trying to expand the genres that I went in for, and was swayed by both the book's reputation and the commercials for the Gary Oldman film.
That being said, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is, without a doubt, the best spy novel I have ever read (and my list of read spy novels IS growing). It's not an action-packed thriller like a Bourne or Bond movie, but (since it's written by a former spy) a slow, methodical examination of clues and possibilities until the main character, George Smiley, reaches the unthinkable conclusion. I will admit, the spy is NOT the character I suspected.
Despite the slowish pace, the book had me captivated, guessing, and enthralled from the opening pages of Jim Prideaux arriving at his new teaching position to the big reveal and the ensuing fallout.
On a somewhat-related note, the Gary Oldman film version was a total letdown, despite a fantastic cast. The film script was NOT up to par for such a fantastic book.