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Publisher's Summary

John le Carré's second novel, A Murder of Quality, offers an exquisite, satirical look at an elite private school as it chronicles the early development of George Smiley. 

Miss Ailsa Brimley is in a quandary. She's received a peculiar letter from Mrs. Stella Rode, saying that she fears her husband - an assistant master at Carne School - is trying to kill her. Reluctant to go to the police, Miss Brimley calls upon her old wartime colleague, George Smiley. Unfortunately, it's too late. Mrs. Rode has just been murdered. As Smiley takes up the investigation, he realizes that in life - as in espionage - nothing is quite what it appears.

©2012 John le Carre (P)2012 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Vastly entertaining." (Sunday Telegraph)

"[Le Carré] is one of our great writers of moral ambiguity, a tireless explorer of that darkly contradictory no-man's land." (Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times

What listeners say about A Murder of Quality

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Short break from le Carre's brilliant spy œuvre

Not le Carré's finest, but that is like saying here a minor Faulkner, a good-effort Chandler or even a throwaway Conrad. 'A Murder of Quality' finds George Smiley out of his element (although to be fair, Smily IS defined by always being just a little out of his element). Instead of in an espionage thriller, he is dropped by le Carré into a boys school murder.

It is as if, with his second novel, le Carré is wondering whether spy fiction or detective fiction should be his future calling. It does make me briefly pause and imagine how the arc of his career might have turned out if le Carré had pursued crime instead of espionage writing.

If you are new to le Carré, don't start with this one. If you love le Carré this will be a short and interesting break from his brilliant espionage œuvre.

27 people found this helpful

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Even better in audio format

My mother-in-law gave me my first George Smiley/ John LeCarre novel, & he's become one of my favorite authors of all Tim, if not my very favorite. Character developments & story-telling genius are large factors, but it's his lyrical turn of phrase and near-poetic prose that won me over & keep me coming back.

I'd read the bulk of the more spycentric Smiley bibliography before learning of his first two books, "Call for the Dead" & "A Murder of Quality", & so I think I was a little let down on my first reading of " A Murder......", expecting more Cold War intrigue.

Over the last ten years, I've switched to almost exclusively audio book "reading", & consequently listen to three times as many books annually, maybe four. It's so much more convenient, and one can listen to an audiobook during chores, driving, etc. But the other big factor is that a narrator can make or break a book. Thankfully, all of the Smiley works are read by the inestimable Michael Jayston. He's an incredible talent, & also so very very British, which is a must with this series.

Anyway, my point is this: I don't know if it's my approaching this particular book ten years after my first reading (when I'd found it to be my lest favorite of all LeCarre's novels), or life experience, but this time around I found A Murder of Quality to be far more favorable & in depth. And Michael Jayston's impeccable narration of course adds to the experience immensely. I'm happy to have revisited this novel & would highly recommend it.

9 people found this helpful

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very good murder mystery

Smiley is still "retired" apparently from secret service after Call for the Dead but this is a very good murder mystery that stands on it's own. Le Carre is a fine author thus far and I know #3 In from the Cold is genius and one of my favorite novels and so I am on my way to #4 in this series and plan to go on with more Smileys and more JLC in general.

4 people found this helpful

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A fairly dull murder mystery

I must admit that, had I not wanted to get to the George Smiley books more focused on Cold War espionage (e.g. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) I would probably not have finished this book. I found it slow and fairly dull. Smiley is a great spy but as a murder investigator, he was a big stretch. I am very glad Le Carré took this character in a different direction.

3 people found this helpful

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Well-crafted Murder Mystery with Quirky Humor

If you could sum up A Murder of Quality in three words, what would they be?

Lean. Logical. Engrossing.

What did you like best about this story?

The down-to-earth humaness of all the characters coupled with the well-polished and logical plot.

3 people found this helpful

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worth listening to more the once ☺

Hated to hear the story end. it had a great reader and great story. 😅😚🤗

2 people found this helpful

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Good

I prefer the espionage stories, although this is nice for a change.

Anything by Le Carre will work for me.

2 people found this helpful

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La Carre channels Christie - Smiley becomes Peraul

This book is more murder mystery than espionage thriller but it still works. La Carre's deliberate pace and exposure of the subtle nuances of his characters all help to add meat to this thin story. The nod to Agatha Christie is obvious. All the characters are very British, full of eccentricities and devoted to their public school existence. The book may lack Christies whimsy but there are some moments in this book that made me smirk even if I was laughing more at the characters than with them. We've seen these types before but not with such a strong sense of snobbery inherent in the old guard as the world moves beyond them. Overrepresented in this book though is in the performance. Michael Jayston brings the language and characters vividly to life and his understanding of the material as it subtly unfolds is unmatched. It was a quality narration that added to the story.

1 person found this helpful

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Another Awesome Book!

I only recently discovered George Smiley, and I am so sorry I haven't been reading about him all these years. He is a real spy, at least he was. He is retired now, but the man knows his stuff!

1 person found this helpful

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good mystery story

after the first book, I expected this one to be a spy story, but it isn't one. still a good mystery story

1 person found this helpful