My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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.