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The history of the mystery is replete with examples of detectives who tread a fine line between the amusingly eccentric and the downright boorish (Sherlock Holmes being the archetype; Poirot, Nero Wolfe [see Orrin's review], and others following in his footsteps).  Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse fits squarely and delightfully in this tradition.  If you've never seen the TV series on PBS and A&E, or better yet read one of the books, you're really missing out on something special.

Morse, whose first name wasn't revealed for years, is an Oxford-educated, beer-drinking, Opera-loving, vintage Jaguar-driving, Crossword puzzle maven and also one of the biggest curmudgeons in all of literature.  He does not suffer fools gladly, other than his much put upon but continually bemused partner Lewis.  His superiors are forced to tolerate his idiosyncrasies and his bibliousness because he also has a uniquely intuitive mind and a knack for solving the most puzzling crimes.  In an interesting symbiosis, John Thaw's television portrayal of Morse bled over into the novels and took some of the harsher edges off of the character and Kevin Whatley's Lewis helped to make the character less of a dolt and more of a naïf in the books too.

In this Gold Dagger winning installment in the series, Morse is on an unwelcome holiday when he gets drawn into the case of a year old disappearance of a Swedish girl who is assumed to have been murdered and ditched in the local woods.  The largely moribund investigation is reinvigorated when The Times receives a cryptic letter with tantalizing but ambiguous literary clues to the dead girl's whereabouts.  As the story unfolds Morse finds himself in the midst of a murder investigation that includes everything from pornography to ornithology.  As always, the book offers both a satisfying mystery and the great pleasure of watching Morse and Lewis interact with one another and with suspects, superiors and the various ladies who inevitably tweak Morse's heartstrings.

After a highly successful run of 13 novels, Dexter killed Morse off earlier this year in  The Remorseful Day.  On the one hand, it's nice to see an author finish a series while he still has his fastball, but Morse and Lewis will be missed.  Try one of the books and keep an eye peeled for the show, both are outstanding.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Colin Dexter (2 books reviewed)
Colin Dexter Links:
    -Endeavour:  The Official Newsletter Of The Inspector Morse Society
    -Colin Dexter (Tangled Web)
    -AuthorView: Colin Dexter (Pan MacMillan)
    -COLIN DEXTER (Stop You're Killing Me)
    -ESSAY: British and French Noir (Neil McDonald, December 2003, Quadrant)
    -ESSAY: The progress of nostalgia: Agatha Christie's Poirot and Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse, with reference to case histories by Freud and Jung ( Liz Hedgecock and Joanne Knowles, University of Liverpool, The Crime Writers of Scandinavia 1997 Mystery Anthology)
    -REVIEW: of The Remorseful Day  (2000)(Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Remorseful Day (H.R.F.Keating - - 1996 Cartier Diamond Dagger winner & creator of Inspector Ghote, Tangled Web)
    -REVIEW: Remorseful Day, but a good read (ROBIN ROBINSON -- Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW: of Death is Now My Neighbor (1997)(Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Death is Now My Neighbor (Val McDermid, Tangled Web)
    -REVIEW: of Death is Now My Neighbor (Wendy Lawrence, Crime Time)
    -REVIEW: of Death Is Now My Neighbour (Barry Buckler, Ed's Internet Book Review: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller)
    -REVIEW: of The Daughters of Cain (1995)(Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Way Through the Woods (1993)(Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Morse's Greatest Mystery (Harrington B. Laufman)
    -REVIEW: of The Jewel That Was Ours (1992)(Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Wench is Dead (1992)(Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Wench is Dead (Mystery Guide)
    -REVIEW: of The Riddle of the Third Mile (1984)(Newgate Callendar, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Last Bus to Woodstock (Mystery Guide)

    -Official Inspector Morse Website (Carleton TV)
    -MYSTERY!: Inspector Morse (PBS)
    -Inspector Morse (A&E)
    -Inspector Morse and Kavanagh QC Infopage

Book-related and General Links: