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on 11 July 2015
This is the second book by John le Carré, and the second to focus on the character of George Smiley. It is also the only book to feature Smiley that isn't a tale of cold war espionage.

A Murder of Quality is, as the title suggests, a murder mystery story, in which an old colleague from his days working for British Intelligence drags Smiley into the story. The action mostly takes place in the public school town of Carne, which is coincidentally also the town where Smiley's estranged wife comes from, and it doesn't take long for Smiley to get himself embroiled in the social, secular and political machinations of the locals.

Initially the blame for the murder is laid at the feet of a local homeless madwoman, though both Smiley and the investigating officer believe her to be innocent. Matters are further complicated by the fact that the victim had previously written a letter in which she records her fears that her own husband is planning on murdering her. We then get to follow Smiley around town as he undertakes his own investigation into the murder and generally sticks his nose in where it's most annoying for the locals.

While I did enjoy this book, I found it to be less gripping than le Carré's later works. That said, it's still worth a read, though not an essential part of the greater body of works featuring Smiley.
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VINE VOICEon 4 January 2016
The second George Smiley novel from le Carre continues with the lean, pared back storytelling that he introduced in "Call for the Dead". Nothing remotely to do with espionage, in this one Smiley is called in by a friend to investigate a death at a public school. It's understated, atmospheric, and packs a lot of story in to well under 200 pages. The writing is crisp and precise, and a real plus is the lack of padding and posturing that seemed to creep into the later Smileys. A revealing afterword tells of le Carre's dislike for the public school system, but his willingness to send his own children there. Ideal double standards for espionage storytelling, one supposes.
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on 13 January 2010
My husband passed this book on to me, having borrowed it from our local library. I found it charming, very readable, and enjoyable. You have to take into account the fact that the novel was first published way back in 1962, and is eons away from today's detective novels. Yes, the plot is a bit thin, but John Le Carre is such a brilliant wordsmith, the descriptions of the characters are so wonderful, you can easily overlook that fact. Set in a public school, it brings to the fore the class system as it was in the fifties and sixties, and shows how far we have come in forty odd years. Give it a go - it's not your normal Le Carre espionage novel, but worth a look.
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on 13 November 2014
It's Le Carre & it's Smiley - two points in its favour. But as far as the greater Smiley literary landscape goes, this is actually a bit of an eyesore. It's Le Carre trying to be Agatha Christie when he's so much better being Le Carre. There is none of the character building that comes out so well in the later books. Women aren't Le Carre's strong point anyway and his portrayal of the murder victim is just so much putty moulded rather unconvincingly by the plot. There is pace and action and it's not a bad read, but wouldn't recommend it as typical Le Carre, because typically, he's brilliant and this one definitely isn't.
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on 29 October 2014
Le Carre’s second novel is an intriguing murder mystery set in and around a boarding school in the fictional town of Carne. Again featuring Le Carre’s most famous creation, George Smiley, the story moves away from espionage to the soft white underbelly of the British public school, and sees Smiley investigating the murder of the wife of one of the school’s teachers; having been asked to get involved as a favour for a mutual friend. Tense and well-plotted, it has a slightly underdone flavour at times; however it remains a fascinating story and a clear indication of the great things to come from the pen of John Le Carre.
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on 3 July 2012
This is the first Le Carre book I have read, and I gather from other reviews it is not typical of his writing, however I enjoyed it. I like mysteries without vivid descriptions of the actual murder and this fitted the bill exactly - shortish chapters appropriate for bedtime reading, although I read it over three days. It is very much like Agatha Christie but much better written and more going on in the story. (AC always leaves me feeling 'well I know there was a murder, but not much seemed to happen!') I'll be trying the more typical Le Carre next.
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on 4 May 2014
John Le Carre is the master of suspense. Tinker, Tailor, Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Smiley's People, etc. All fantastic. This book is written in exactly the same style - a slow meandering plot with twist after twist, no stone left unturned. The trouble was, I didn't care. Other Le Carre book are about the Cold War and the historical issues going on at the time. This book is about a murder of a teacher's wife at a school. It just wasn't important enough for me to care.
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on 12 July 2010
A good bok, perhaps not as sharp as A Call for the Dead as it is not a spy story but an entertaining read in a plane nonetheless
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 December 2015
This isn't a spy thriller but instead gives us Smiley in Agatha Christie mode as he investigates the death of an awkward Dean's wife in an exclusive public school. This is fun, almost light-hearted, and without the moral angst of the Karla trilogy or the more recent novels. There is, though, a concern with social issues: class, social snobbery (there are some almost Waughsian moments) and the very real inequality endemic in a two-tier education system - recommended.
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on 4 June 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel once I got used to the allusive style. It had a very good sense of place - Westminster, Covent Garden, Scotland. The dialogue between Ministers was particularly convincing. I liked the contrast between Scotland and London but felt Mungo's role was unclear. He was necessary for the family revelations but I was lost as to the part he was playing in London.
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