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A Murder Of Quality (George Smiley #2)

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  6,698 Ratings  ·  485 Reviews
George Smiley was simply doing a favour for an old friend, Miss Ailsa Brimley, who edited a small religious newspaper. Miss Brimley had received a letter from a worried woman reader: 'I'm not mad. And I know my husband is trying to kill me.' The writer of the letter was one Stella Rode, wife to an assistant master at Carne School, Dorset, and by the time it arrived, she wa ...more
Paperback, 206 pages
Published 1962 by Popular Library
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Bill  Kerwin

Le Carre's first book was not so much a spy novel as a detective story with spies in it, and his second book is even less a spy novel: it is a detective story with George Smiley in it. But that does not prevent A Murder of Quality (1962) from being a well-written, entertaining book.

In an introduction to a paperback edition issued almost thirty years after its original publication, le Carre wrote that “rereading the book now, I find a flawed thriller redeemed by ferocious and quite funny social c
Jason Koivu
May 15, 2017 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery, crime
I haven't exactly rushed to read John le Carré's books, but whenever I've gotten around to it, I'm always glad I did!

The man can write. He's not the best. It's not all perfect, but it's damn good. The words just flow. The plots are solid. The characters feel like real people, which is sometimes a knock on mystery/crime writers. Carré spends more time rounding out his characters than your typical who-dun-it writer. Sometimes that means the action slows down and the intensity slackens, but that's
All this time I had been clear in my mind that George Smiley was a spy master and that John le Carré writes spy novels. A Murder of Quality , the second novel in the George Smiley series, blew both of those assumptions away completely. While you could argue that Smiley is technically a spy, he's retired from the service. When his friend and former colleague from their days in the intelligence services, Ailsa Brimley, receives a paranoid letter from a subscriber to her magazine, The Christian Vo ...more
Aug 25, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My husband is quite a fan of John LeCarre and convinced me that I should read this one. It is a small novel (146 pages) compared to his later books of 300 or more pages and a little mystery instead of a cold war spy novel. Not being the greatest fan of a mystery novel (I tend to read them too fast, or peek at the ending - because I can't stand the suspense -- or I'm up until the wee hours of the morning because I can't go to sleep until I find out "who did it"), I was surprised how much I enjoye ...more

Description: A public school in the early 1960s. When the wife of one of the masters is found bludgeoned to death, Smiley, out of loyalty to an old friend, finds himself investigating her death - an investigation that lifts the lid on a world of hidden passions and murderous hatreds.

John le Carré's thriller stars Simon Russell Beale as George Smiley, Geoffrey Palmer as Terence Fielding, Marcia Warren as Ailsa, Sam Dale as Inspector Rigby, Geoffrey Streatfi
[3.5] One of those curious book coincidences that seem to happen more often than they statistically should: here it's a surprising similarity of plot and causation with another crime novel I read overlapping this one - had no idea before starting each book that the topic would be involved in either of them. Fifteen years and the best part of five hundred miles, not to mention the gulf of the post-war British class system separate the stories, but ultimately it came down to the same thing. (view ...more
Aug 29, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Michael T. Slager

le Carré is supposedly a genre writer, but he's also one of the best British writers of the 20th century, in my opinion. Moreover, he makes it look easy. Unless you stop and pay attention, it just seems like ordinary, good writing. But in reality, he has a gift.

It was a peculiarity of Smiley's character that throughout the whole of his clandestine work he had never managed to reconcile the means to the end. A stringent critic of his own motives, he had discovered after long observation that he t
Mar 14, 2010 James rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, crime
Started off brilliantly but ended with a whimper, as the ending felt contrived and unrealistic. I think as the author himself put it not bad as a social satire but weak as a thriller.

The story starts when a colleague of Smiley contacts him to help with a letter she has received from a reader of the magazine she edits. As Smiley gets more involved all the great ingredients you find in le carre`s book are there - great characters minutely observed, a taste for the depressing england of the post w
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
A public school in the early 1960s. When the wife of one of the masters is found bludgeoned to death, Smiley, out of loyalty to an old friend, finds himself investigating her death - an investigation that lifts the lid on a world of hidden passions and murderous hatreds.

John le Carré's thriller stars Simon Russell Beale as George Smiley, Geoffrey Palmer as Terence Fielding, Marcia Warren as Ailsa, Sam Dale as Inspector Rigby, Geoffrey Streatfield as Stanley Rode, Amanda La
Aug 16, 2013 Zoeytron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading John Le Carre's writing is like treating yourself to a fine wine. It is not to be sped through or swigged. His words and passages lend themselves to being slowly consumed and savored.

A Murder of Quality was set in present day when it was published over 50 years ago. Thus the sound of a milk truck chugging from house to house in the early morning hours with the milkman making his front porch deliveries is not out of place. Elevator lifts still boast a uniformed elevator operator, "What f
Feb 13, 2017 Nigeyb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'A Murder of Quality' is the second in the George Smiley series and is a straightforward murder mystery set in a private boy’s school which makes it an anomaly given the other books are set in the world of espionage and spying. I suspect it is also something of a footnote when compared with the more famous and celebrated books that came in its wake.

However, 'A Murder of Quality' is still well worth reading. Beautifully written and expertly plotted, it also takes a razor sharp scalpel to snobber
George Smilely solves a murder. Cynical but in this format, an easy whodonit. Must enjoyable aspect was the interactions with the detective.
Erin (PT)
With another slow start from Le Carré, and my husband's pronouncement that he didn't like the book at all, I had a really hard time getting into A Murder of Quality and I was nervous about what I'd find. At the end of it all, I think I enjoyed the book a lot more than my husband did…but it's still something of a disappointment.

Like Le Carré's first book, A Murder of Quality has the same problems for me as a) a book placed in time before my birth and b) a book set in England—and in the English bo
Jan 08, 2017 Jaksen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
What a book...

And despite a lot of low reviews, this book really says a lot about British 'culture' when it comes to the public school, a place where boys (or girls) are introduced to their place in society. Really, that's how this book reads and le Carre is not a big fan of it. The condescension of the 'betters' to the 'lower classes' just reeks through every page, and the descriptions of personalities who exist only when there's an audience, wow, is so current to what's happening in today's wo
Jul 22, 2009 Travis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just checked this out from the library for some light reading during a trip, thinking it was the only Le Carre I hadn't read--only to discover a few pages into it that I had read it after all. So, I read it again.

I'm a real fan of Le Carre's spy novels (especially "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy,.." and "The Night Manager," most of which handily transcend the genre and wrestle with deeper issues in much more sophisticated ways than do the works of any other writer of spy fiction save Graham Green
The second book in the George Smiley series is another intriguing mystery. Miss Brimley, editor of a small Christian newspaper, receives a letter from Stella Rodes, a long-time subscriber, asking for advice. Stella is the wife of an assistant master at the Carne School and she claims her husband wants to kill her. Brimley contacts her friend Smiley and shows him the letter. His preliminary check into the matter finds the woman has already been brutally murdered. Using his personal connections wi ...more
Dec 11, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love le Carré so much that I put off reading this, because a domestic murder mystery seemed too pedestrian for my favorite espionage novelist (probably favorite novelist). Luckily, he concerns himself with many of the same themes, as evidenced by this quote about Smiley: "Making his way through the Carne streets, he reflected for the hundredth time on the obscurity of motive in human action: there is no true thing on earth. There is no constant, no dependable point, not even in the purest logi ...more
Aug 01, 2014 Quanjun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I started reading John le Carre because I became interested in spies. Not those with fancy gadgets but those who work in the dark, not drawing attention to themselves, carefully collecting intel and coding their messages. But after this book, I have to say I love his writing style, and I would read anything he writes, spy novel or not.

This book is about a murder, no espionage.

Smiley having quit his job after getting fed up with his idiot boss a book ago is asked by a friend to investigate a mur
Jesse Adler
Aug 03, 2012 Jesse Adler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inspired by a talk on the flow of non fiction to fiction by amazing writers, journalists and ex intelligence consultants at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival I started on the classic British spy / crime series by John La Carre.

A Murder of Quality is the second George Smiley book. It's a gentle yet eerie view of elitist private boy schools in England. He has beautifully captured the snobbishness and small mindedness that kept such institutions both respected and feared for generations.

He pai
Jordan West
At least a 3.5 in actuality; contains much to like about it, including Le Carre's acidic portrayals of British public school and provincial upper crust life, an atmospheric encounter with a madwoman in a ruined church that could have come from a folk horror tale, and a somber ending with a final paragraph that is quietly devastating. However, as opposed to the first novel, which was a fusion of noir and espionage featuring Smiley as a de facto 'detective' in the mode of Marlowe or Spade, this is ...more
Dec 03, 2011 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, espionage
This is the second George Smiley book in le Carre's incomparable and timeless espionage series. In this short novel (140 pages or so) a retired Smiley does an old friend from his spy days a favor by looking into a murder in a small town that houses a prestigious and elite school for boys. Whodunit, of course, is the order of the day. It's brilliantly written and, more important, builds the character of Smiley himself for later, more famous, novels. We learn a little about Smiley's failed marriag ...more
Nicole Marble
Jan 14, 2009 Nicole Marble rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An awful murder in the English countryside. A prestigious school. George Smiley of 'The Spy Who Came in From the Cold' fame. The plot is properly complex, the clues abundant and misleading, and Smiley solves the case. But there is an aftertaste to this book - the overwhelming feeling that murder is such a tawdry thing, just plain depressing.
Apr 27, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I get from le Carre what I believe I am suppose to get from Hammett and Chandler. The story is a character. The story develops with texture and personality right along with George Smiley and the locations where events take place. Fantastic.

This is more murder mystery than spy thriller but still wonderful as only John le Carre can be.
May 13, 2017 Molly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John le Carré is a terrific writer.

Although he is probably best known for his Cold War era spy novels, "A Murder of Quality" is one of his earlier books - the second in the George Smiley series.

A London detective, retired civil servant George Smiley is described by one of his colleagues: "He looks like a frog, dresses like a bookie, and has the brain I'd give my eyes for". The unassuming and easily forgettable Smiley takes us along with him on his journey to discover the murderer and it is this
Craig Pittman
Kind of a letdown. Although John LeCarre's first Smiley novel, "Call for the Dead," was a surprisingly fun read, this one is the exact opposite. Smiley is retired (prematurely, of course) and as a favor to an old friend goes to investigate a murder at an exclusive boys' school. Because it's Smiley (and LeCarre) I kept waiting for the espionage angle to pop up and it never did. Instead this is a straight-ahead English mystery story, and not a terribly compelling one either. There are some good sc ...more
Paul Curd
Carne School, with its cloisters and woodworm and a line in the Doomsday Book, is one of the Great Schools, where the rich send their sons to be instructed. And it is from Carne that Miss Ailsa Brimley, editor of the small Christian Voice newspaper, receives a letter for the paper’s problem page. The writer of the letter is Stella Rode, the wife of one of the school’s junior masters. Previously, Stella had written about cake mix for the ‘kitchen hints’ competition. This time, she asks for help b ...more
Mar 06, 2017 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's nary a spy to be found in this ingenious little mystery from le Carre'. this departure from the Smiley/espionage saga proves to be a unique and pleasant surprise as JLC pens a densely plotted tale that could stand with Christie and Sayers.rounded up to 4-stars for the additional subplot/biting commentary on class warfare.if you are looking for a proper British murder mystery you could do a lot worse.
Oct 04, 2014 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
it got four stars because the writing was impeccable and because I like the character George Smiley so much, he's such a sympathetic character.
I kind of wanted three an a half though, because of my intense disappointment in the author's development of the Stella character.
(view spoiler)
David Cranmer
Apr 11, 2015 David Cranmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beyond the appetizing, red herring-drenched narrative, Mr. LeCarre takes the occasion to routinely rail at stale 1960s English higher education with his microscope firmly placed on the fictional Carne College, but this obviously could be any number of schools of the time (it is a well-known fact the novelist has a great deal of loathing for such similar suffocating institutions). Early on Terrence Fielding, senior housemaster of Carne, reflects upon his pending retirement by comparing his work t ...more
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John le Carré, the pseudonym of David John Moore Cornwell (born 19 October 1931 in Poole, Dorset, England), is an English author of espionage novels. Le Carré has resided in St Buryan, Cornwall, Great Britain, for more than 40 years, where he owns a mile of cliff close to Land's End.

See also: John le Carré - Wikipedia
More about John le Carré...

Other Books in the Series

George Smiley (9 books)
  • Call for the Dead
  • The Spy Who Came In from the Cold
  • The Looking Glass War
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • The Honourable Schoolboy
  • Smiley's People
  • The Secret Pilgrim
  • A Legacy of Spies

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