George Smiley is one of the most brilliantly realised characters in British fiction. Bespectacled, tubby, eternally middle-aged, and deceptively ordinary, he has a mind like a steel trap and is said to possess 'the cunning of Satan and the conscience of a virgin'.

Miss Ailsa Brimley is in a quandary. She's received a peculiar letter from Mrs Stella Rode, saying that she fears her husband - an assistant master at Carne School - is trying to kill her. Reluctant to go to the police, Miss Brimley calls upon her old wartime colleague, George Smiley. Unfortunately, it's too late. Mrs Rode has just been murdered. As Smiley takes up the investigation, he realises that in life - as in espionage - nothing is quite what it appears. His investigation raises a multitude of questions. Who could have hated Stella Rode enough to kill her? Why was her dog put down shortly before the murder? And what did Mad Janie see on that fatal night? To discover the truth, Smiley must lift the lid on a world of hidden passions and dangerous hatreds.