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A Murder of Quality

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Country  United Kingdom
Publication date  1962
Author  John le Carré
Genre  Mystery
3.6/5 Goodreads

Language  English
Originally published  1962
Preceded by  Call for the Dead
Publisher  Victor Gollancz Ltd
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Media type  Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Followed by  The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Similar  John le Carré books, George Smiley Series books, Mystery books

A Murder of Quality is the second novel by John le Carré. It features George Smiley, the most famous of le Carré's recurring characters, in his only book set outside the espionage community.


Plot summary

George Smiley is contacted by a wartime colleague, Ailsa Brimley, who now edits a small Christian magazine. She tells Smiley that she has received a letter from a reader, Stella Rode, claiming that her husband is plotting to kill her. The woman's husband is a teacher at a public school in the town of Carne. It so happens that Terence Fielding, brother of a classics professor who was one of Smiley's close associates in British intelligence during the war, is a house master at the school. However, before Smiley can intercede, Stella Rode is murdered. Smiley arrives to investigate.

Smiley's estranged wife, Ann, lived in Carne as a child, and upon his arrival, Smiley becomes the subject of snide gossip. He also is witness to an invidious class division between "town and gown" which is superimposed upon a religious division between adherents of the Church of England and Nonconformists. As the wife of a public school teacher, and as a nonconformist, Stella Rode occupied a low rank in the local social hierarchy, especially in the estimation of Carne's upper crust. The town police focus on a homeless madwoman as the murderer, but both Smiley and the investigating officer believe her to be innocent. Smiley discovers the murderer's hidden blood-stained clothes, while in the meantime a boy in Fielding's house becomes the second murder victim. Stanley Rode admits to Smiley that his murdered wife's apparent piety and good works concealed an unsavoury selfishness and vindictiveness which repelled him. Smiley follows the clues to identify the real murderer, Terence Fielding, whom Stella Rode had been blackmailing over a wartime homosexuality conviction. The conviction was known to school authorities, who took advantage of the situation to keep Fielding in his post at substantially reduced wages. The murdered boy had inadvertently seen something that could have disproved Fielding's alibi, although he was never aware of its significance before falling victim himself. Fielding fails to frame Stanley Rode for the murders, or to convince Smiley that his presumably superior social background should exempt him from punishment. Having finally admitted his guilt, Fielding is arrested.

Television and radio adaptations

John le Carré himself adapted the novel for Thames Television. It was shown on the ITV network in 1991, and starred Denholm Elliott as George Smiley; Glenda Jackson as Ailsa Brimley; Joss Ackland as Terence Fielding; Billie Whitelaw as Mad Janie; David Threlfall as Stanley Rode; and a teenage Christian Bale as the murdered student, Tim Perkins.

BBC Radio 4 broadcast A Murder of Quality as the second in a series which featured all the Smiley novels (The Complete Smiley), with Simon Russell Beale in the main role.


A Murder of Quality Wikipedia

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