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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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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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on 28 January 2010
This slim book is John Le Carré's second novel, written 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 weekly, contacts GS when she receives a letter from the wife of a teacher at Carne's. The wife's family has for generations subscribed to the weekly. She claims her husband is planning to kill her... When she is found dead days later, Miss Brimley contacts GS and pleads with him to find out the truth. GS, in retirement following the dramatic outcome of his first appearance in Le Carré's debut novel, agrees and travels to Carne 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 in this dark book situated during a cold winter, to convey an atmosphere of awfulness about the English/British mindset not far removed from what the late film director Sam Peckinpah tried to depict in his movie Straw Dogs, a film that has for many years been banned in Britain.
Great reading. Highly recommended.
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on 27 August 2013
What would have followed if this, rather than The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, had been the novel which made le Carré's name?

A Murder of Quality was le Carré's second novel. The first one, Call for the Dead, introduced us to his most famous character, George Smiley, an officer in the secret service. In this, the second book, Smiley returns. But he is now a retired spy. He is asked, by a former secretary in the secret service who is now editor of a periodical addressed to "chapel" readers, to help her look into a strange letter she has received from a woman who is married to a school master at a horribly snobbish public school. The letter claims that its author's husband is intending to murder her. Smiley agrees to help, but then discovers that the woman has already been murdered. He goes to the school and embarks on his investigation.

What follows is a brilliant detective story with some wonderfully funny descriptions of snobbish school masters and their wives (or sister in one case). The school (Carne) is not really identifiable. Judging from its staff, it is a third rate public school with pretensions to greater things. But we are constantly told that national newspapers write about it all the time because it is so grand. Is it Eton? No, obviously not: Eton doesn't go in for such grotesque snobbery (it doesn't need to). When we read the author's afterword we discover that Carne is his own school, Sherborne.

When one gets over trying to identify the school one finds oneself reading an extraordinarily well crafted who-dunnit. There is no espionage, there are no spies. The novel is a sort of superior Agatha Christie story. And it is tremendously good.

But it didn't hit the bestseller lists when it was first published. Le Carré had to wait until his next novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, before he became famous. Thereafter, as we all know, he concentrated on spy thrillers. They are, of course, brilliant. But a part of me wishes he had written some more books like A Murder of Quality.

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on 12 January 2016
A great page turner, further bringing you into the world of George Smiley. Letting you gather the clues and piece them together as the lead character does, and showing you that Smiley works on the small ticks and shows of the people he encounters.
Highly recommend.
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on 14 June 2016
A worthwhile read. Each character comes alive on the page due to le Carré's warts and all descriptions of them. The plot is a little shaky in places. His insight into the closeted, close-knit public school environment is intriguing. This was le Carré's second book and fans of the writer should read it to appreciate how his story telling skills and plots improve in his later books.
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on 26 September 1999
Definitely the author's weakest novel. George Smiley is called by an old friend to a great English public school (clearly modelled on Sherborne) to investigate a murder; heavy-handed social satire snd a lingering whiff of intolerance make this a rather sour novel. I must admit I kept waiting for some more links to the rest of le Carre's novels when I first read this and was more than a little disappointed.
Really belongs more to the genre of English mystery novels than to the epsionage canon -- this is really of associational interest to fans of Smiley as although it contains some background information on him, it could just as easily have been a fairly generic mystery novel by the likes of P D James.
As a genteel detective novel with a dark underside, this is pretty good. As a le Carre novel, it's weak. Later made into a rather poor TV series with Denholm Elliott horribly miscast as Smiley.
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on 21 July 2014
This is one of the few Le Carre books that I hadn't read. It was enjoyable to go back to his early years of writing realise how good a story teller he was at the outset and how he has achieved greatness in his field. Like many more readers I await impatiently for his next publication.
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on 4 March 2016
le Carre is sometimes difficult to get in to, and this one is no exception; not sure if watching the TV series at the same time is help or hindrance, but I am looking forward to the next chapter each time I pick it up, all the same. As ever, it is what he leaves unsaid that provides much of the mystery.
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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 12 September 2015
I have only just started reading this book on my kindle, so at present I am unable to give a true star rating. When I have finished reading my kindle copy I shall let you have my start rating. At the moment I will give it 4 stars. I am enjoying reading it so please be patient.
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