Book Review - A Murder of Quality by John le Carre
So now that I'm starting to read John le Carre, I figured I'd take all his book from the beginning in sequence. I reached back a few years and got A Murder of Quality from the library. Keeping in mind I don't have a full history of his work to draw upon, I must say that I found this one rather slow and confusing. I know that le Carre is touted as a great spymaster writer, and I guess I got that in my head as to what to expect from the George Smiley character. Instead, this was more of a detective novel, and more of an accidental detective at that. Couple that with a very strong British flavor to the writing style, and it didn't work very well for me.
The story revolves around Smiley's attempt to solve a murder that occurred in a small English village that housed the Carne School, a very well-known institution. He was led to the case by a friend who received a letter to the newspaper for which she worked. A long time reader claimed she was about to be killed by her husband, and that this was a very real threat. As a favor, he heads to Carne to inquire. When he starts asking questions and digging around, he finds a number of very strange and eccentric individuals who work for the school, and none of them appear to have had any direct connection or motive for the murder. But the deeper he digs, the more disturbing some of his findings become, and he has to tread carefully to get the murder to expose him or herself.
As I'm finding with le Carre's novels, he condenses a lot of information into very few pages. He paints his images well. But in A Murder of Quality, I never found myself caring for the cast of characters, and until the end I didn't even have a motive for the murder. Granted, in some books that missing motive drives the story. Here, it just left me wondering "why do I care?" Also, there are plenty of British references and phrasings here that are not familiar to the average American reader, given the culture and the passage of time (written in 1962).
I'm not about to drop my effort to go through le Carre's bibliography, as I've been told (by very reliable sources) that the next few are really good. But in this particular case, I wasn't overly engrossed in the material.