A Murder of Quality is the second of LeCarre's novels that feature George Smiley. Unlike the others in the series this novel is not about the Cold War and espionage, at least not overtly. In this one; a woman with whom Smiley worked during the war contacts him. She publishes a small Christian paper and has a subscriber who fears that she will be murdered. Smiley investigates and eventually finds the murderer. It is a classic murder story but not a spy story or is it? I did find myself wondering why the paper was kept in business by the owners. Is it owned by British intelligence? There might be more to this murder mystery than meets the eye or perhaps not. Smiley has to solve a murder and also face his wife's past. It's ironic that the basically decent and brilliant Smiley is considered unsuitable for his higher class but serially unfaithful wife. LeCarre includes much social comment about Britain as he leads Smiley to the solution of the crime. Things are not what they seem and Smiley's investigations lead to truly nasty revelations. The twists, turns and betrayal that are LeCarre constants are present in A Murder of Quality. The reader gets to see the author as he is developing his craft. A Murder of Quality is a murder mystery and perhaps LeCarre was considering pursuing this genre. Instead he reinvented the spy story incorporating seaminess and betrayal. A Murder of Quality shows us how deep his talents as a writer are.
This slim book is John Le Carré's second novel while working as a British diplomat in Bonn and Bern or elsewhere in a roving capacity, and again it stars George Smiley (GS). He was Le Carré's hero in his debut Call for the Dead, which described him as being an accomplished and committed spy since 1928, who survived a frightful and nasty war in Germany, and who is still (early 1960's) wearing glasses, short, pudgy, and badly, but expensively dressed. He is also separated from his aristocratic wife Ann, and some characters in this book let him know that they know. This book is not about espionage, but about a murder at Carne, a centuries' old public school. Miss Brimley, a WW-II colleague of GS in wartime intelligence, who has become editor of a religion-based periodical, receives a letter from the wife of a teacher at Carne's, whose family has for generations subscribed to the journal. She claims her husband is planning to kill her. When she is found dead days later, she contacts GS and pleads with him to find out the truth. GS, still in retirement following the dramatic outcome of his first appearance in Le Carré's debut novel, agrees and starts to investigate... Le Carré's subsequent description of the rift between the school and the rest of Carne village, the feuds, prejudices and resentments between and among new and old staff (many are alumni not employable elsewhere) are cruelly revealing of the class-based rifts in English society at the time. Le Carré manages at times to convey an atmosphere of awfulness about the English/British mindset not far removed from what the late film director Sam Peckinpah conveyed in his 1971 movie Straw Dogs, a film that was until 2002 banned in Britain. Great reading. Highly recommended.
still outside the Circs.This crime novel precedes the spy stories for which Le Carré is widely known and highly appreciated. It already features George Smiley still outside the Circus. II is a public school with all its strange characters and snobbish habits which is chosen as a locale. As usual with Le Carré, social criticism plays as large a part as the intricacy of the plot. Everyone is a suspect while the real murderer is kept secret until the last moment. This novel ìs an exercise for those to come.