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A Murder of Quality

(George Smiley #2)

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  10,987 ratings  ·  780 reviews
Stella Rode has twice disturbed the ancient cloisters of Carne School: firstly by being the wrong sort, with her doyleys and china ducks, and secondly by being murdered. George Smiley, who has his own connection with the school, is asked by an old Service friend to investigate. As Smiley probes further beneath Carne's respectable veneer, he uncovers far more than a simple ...more
Kindle Edition, 177 pages
Published May 26th 2011 by Penguin Classics (first published 1962)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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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 this 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
...more
Jaline
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xx2017-completed
A dog that had not bitten the postman; a devil that rode upon the wind; a woman who knew that she would die; a little, worried man in an overcoat standing in the snow outside his hotel, and the laborious chime of the Abbey clock telling him to go to bed.

In this second book in the George Smiley series, Miss Brimley calls him because she is concerned about a letter she received for the small publication, The Christian Voice where a woman named Stella (Glaston) Rode writes that she fears her
...more
Jason Koivu
May 15, 2017 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
...more
Emma
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Absolutely excellent. My first meeting with George Smiley and certainly an error I will be correcting in the months to come. A very interesting character. The whole book was a condemnation of the British class system, reinforced by the afterword by John Le Carre. In it, he admits that the kernels of this story are routed in his own experience of public school and consequent post as a Junior master at Eton:
'I recognise the dankness of those old stone walls that formed the limits of my childhood
...more
James
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 ...more
Carol
Aug 25, 2012 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 ...more
Zoeytron
Aug 16, 2013 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
...more
Sara
The second in John le Carre’s Smiley series is more a good murder mystery than a spy thriller. Smiley is quite retired and he is asked by Mrs. Brimley from his spying days to help respond to a mysterious letter she has received from a woman who has subsequently been murdered.

I hardly missed the intrigue of the Circus, since this mystery was almost as complicated and entangled as the spy craft. I changed my mind repeatedly about who did it and I kept feeling something minor was significant but
...more
Bettie


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b011cfjw

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
...more
Antonomasia
[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
Susan
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second novel featuring George Smiley; the first is, "Call for the Dead". This is unlike most of the Smiley books, in that it is really a classic crime story, much in the style of an Agatha Christie. Set in an exclusive boarding school, Carne School in Dorset, this is obviously something which the author feels strongly about, considering that he spent much of his life from the age of five (so young!) in such institutions, as well as teaching at Eton.

In this book, Smiley is contacted
...more
Lobstergirl
Aug 29, 2012 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
...more
James
Mar 14, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, fiction
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
...more
Mark
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, thriller, spies
This is the second book Le Carre delivered and the second George Smiley novel, and while some people call it a bit of Agatha Christie novel as it is more about murder than spy craft it would be a daft comparison. George Smiley is nowhere as out there as Miss Marple of Poirrot, he is the quit man in the background and once he steps out of the shadows people tend to listen.

It starts when Miss Brimly the editor of the journal Christian Voice receives a letter in which she reads a cry for help. She
...more
Steve
Nov 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Belatedly working my way through the Smiley series, and, sadly, not having started at the beginning, I finally got around to this slender volume ... more novella than novel ... and it was an interesting mystery yarn, more social commentary than thriller, but ever-so-briefly entertaining nonetheless.

I can't say that I found it particularly special, but, as part of a larger Smiley tapestry, it was worth reading. It was perfect for airplane, hotel, and taxi reading .... I could easily imagine
...more
Nigeyb
Feb 13, 2017 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
...more
Laura
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
...more
Molly
May 13, 2017 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
...more
Bruce Beckham
I have read and enjoyed the majority of John Le Carré’s ‘Smiley’ novels – so I was delighted to find this little gem tucked away in a second-hand bookstore just south of the Canadian border!

Set in and around a stately English public school in the depths of a snowy winter, it drips with atmosphere. A tutor’s rather disreputable wife is murdered and the school has closed ranks. Smiley must employ all his skills to penetrate the cloistered establishment.

Expecting a tale of espionage (the cover of
...more
Christine
George Smilely solves a murder. Cynical but in this format, an easy whodonit. Must enjoyable aspect was the interactions with the detective.
Jaksen
Jan 08, 2017 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
...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
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 ...more
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
Helga Cohen
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another George Smiley story in the series by an excellent writer. In this book George Smiley who is retired from the British Secret Service, is called by an old friend, Ailsa Brimley of a small newspaper to investigate a troubling letter she received from a worried reader. It claims that her husband will kill her. Smiley goes to this very proper distinguished boys’ school, Carne School, and finds that he is already too late and that she was dead.

Smiley immerses himself with the
...more
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
...more
Vignesh Ashok Kumar
More like 2.5 rating. DISCLAIMER : It's just another murder mystery dammit!!
Well, even though the novel started out enigmatic, it lost it's steam at the climax where it contradicts everything it was working towards. Clearly, Le Carre hates public school(which he mentions in the Afterword).
James  Love
Just your average murder mystery. The only reason it falls into the realm of espionage is that the main character solving the murder is a former English spy.
Paul  Perry
3.5/5


This is an odd entry in the works of le Carre, chronicling the later life of George Smiley. Following the events of Call for the Dead Smiley, no longer with the service, is living a quiet life in London. He is contacted by an old colleague about the a letter she has received from the wife of one of the masters at a venerable Public School (that is, a very old, expensive and exclusive private school) in Dorset, in which she states the fear that her husband is intending to kill her. (view
...more
Travis
Jul 22, 2009 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
...more
Julie
Dec 11, 2014 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 ...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

Other books in the series

George Smiley (5 books)
  • Call for the Dead (George Smiley #1)
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • The Honourable Schoolboy
  • Smiley's People
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