A Murder of Quality
|Author||John le Carré|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Preceded by||Call for the Dead|
|Followed by||The Spy Who Came in From the Cold|
George Smiley is called by a wartime colleague, Miss Brimley, who now edits a small Christian magazine and in this position has received a letter sent by Stella Rode, a reader who claims her husband is plotting to kill her. Terence Fielding, the brother of a classics professor who was one of Smiley's close wartime associates in intelligence services, is a house master at Carne, the public school where the woman's husband teaches. Smiley finds out that the woman has already been murdered and decides to go and investigate.
The town of Carne was the youthful home of Smiley's estranged wife Ann, and Smiley is both the subject of snide gossip and witness to a rural "town and gown" gap that doubles with a religious divide: Church of England vs Nonconformists. 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 hiding place of the murderer's blood-stained clothes, while the police find a second murder victim, a boy in Fielding's house. The clues, and a confession about the secret, delusional vindictiveness of the murdered woman from her husband, lead Smiley to the real murderer: Fielding, who was being blackmailed by the woman due to a WWII homosexuality conviction, and who had only kept his job at substantially reduced wages. The boy had inadvertently seen evidence that disproved Fielding's alibi for the time of the woman's murder, although the boy was never aware of it before his death. Fielding confesses after trying to frame Stanley Rode, and is arrested.
Television and radio adaptations
The film version of the novel was adapted for television by Thames Television for ITV in 1991. It starred Denholm Elliott as George Smiley and featured a screenplay adapted from the novel by John le Carré himself. It also starred Glenda Jackson, Joss Ackland, Billie Whitelaw, Diane Fletcher, David Threlfall and Christian Bale.
The novel was the second story to be broadcast in BBC Radio 4's major series to feature all the Smiley novels (The Complete Smiley), with Simon Russell Beale in the main role.