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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.
21 of 22 people found this review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful