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review 2018-11-12 13:30
24 Festive Tasks: Doors 2 and 5 - Books for Guy Fawkes Night and Veterans' / Armistice Day
Behold, Here's Poison - Georgette Heyer
Behold, Here's Poison - Georgette Heyer
The Riddle of the Third Mile - Colin Dexter,Samuel West
The Riddle of the Third Mile - Colin Dexter

Georgette Heyer: Behold, Here's Poison
(Narrator: Ulli Birvé)

The first Georgette Heyer mysteries I read were her Inspector Hemingway books, which in a way meant I was starting from the wrong end, as Hemingway progressed to the rank of inspector from having been the lead investigator's sergeant in the earlier Superintendent Hannasyde books.  That doesn't impede my enjoyment of Hannasyde's cases in the least, however, now that I'm getting around to these, even though I found the first one (Death in the Stocks) seriously underwhelming.  But Heyer redeems herself in a big way with Behold, Here's Poison: Though a fair share of her mysteries have a sizeable contingent of 1920s-30s stock-in-trade bright young things and generally "nice chaps" (which got on my nerves enough at one point to make me decide I'd had enough of Heyer), when she did set her mind to it, nobody, not even Agatha Christie, did maliciously bickering families like her.  And the family taking center stage here must be one of the meanest she's ever come up with, only (just) surpassed by the Penhallows.  I'm not overwhelmed with the story's romantic dénouement (there always is one in Heyer's books), and while I guessed the mystery's essential "who" and had a basic idea of the "why" at about the 3/4 - 4/5 mark (the actual "why" was a bit of a deus ex machina), by and large this has to count among my favorite Heyer mysteries so far ... though not quite reaching the level of my overall favorite, Envious Casca.


Ulli Birvé isn't and won't ever become my favorite narrator, and she seriously got on my nerves here, too.  Since all of the recent re-recordings of Heyer's mysteries are narrated by her, though, I've decided I won't hold her mannerisms against the author, and I've read enough print versions of Heyer books at this point to have a fairly good idea of what a given character would sound like in my head if I'd read instead of listened to the book in question.



Colin Dexter: The Riddle of the Third Mile
(Narrator: Samuel West)

For Veterans' / Armistice Day I'm claiming the very first book I revisited after the beginning of the 24 Festive Tasks game: Colin Dexter's The Riddle of the Third Mile had long been one of my favorite entries in the Inspector Morse series, but Samuel West's wonderful reading not only confirmed that status but actually moved it up yet another few notches.  (Samuel West is fast becoming one of my favorite audiobook narrators anyway.) The fact that due to the progress of medical research a key element of the mystery would have been much easier to solve these days does not impede my enjoyment in the least ... changing social mores aside, half the Golden Age crime literature, including many of the great classics by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and even, on occasion, Arthur Conan Doyle would be deprived of substantial riddles if they were set today. -- The book qualifies for this particular "24 Festive Tasks" square, because some of the characters' and their siblings' encounter as British soldiers at the battle of El Alamein (1942) forms the prologue to the book and an important motive for their actions in the world of Oxford academia and Soho strip clubs, some 40 years later.

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review 2017-05-20 13:03
Echoes of Holmes and Watson
The Riddle of the Third Mile - Colin Dexter

6/13 in the series of crime mysteries involving Chief Inspector Morse and as seems to be Dexter's habit, this book is split into separate parts ('miles' in this case) and though not described as such, Chapter 1 provides a prologue set in El Alamein, 1942. In particular, the narrative introduces the three Gilbert brothers - Alfred and Albert (twins) and their younger sibling, John and a young field officer in the Royal Wiltshires, Lieutenant Browne-Smith. Fast forward to the University of Oxford and Dr Browne-Smith is on a panel of examiners considering the submissions of the academic creme de la creme - the 'greats', but the echo of that distant past will drive a profound sequence of macabre events, which Morse is called upon to unpick.


'The Riddle of the Third Mile' is thirty pages shorter than most of the books in this series, but Morse and his trusty sidekick DS Lewis are on good form and through mention of the 'greats', the author gives us some additional insight into the former academic career of the enigmatic Chief Inspector. Morse is now 52, but intriguingly the hallowed halls and the intense love he found there have clearly shaped the man. Indeed, the reader might surmise that lost love and spectre of what might have been perhaps contributed to the gruff shell behind which Morse, in his self-imposed isolation, tends to operate. It is also tempting to speculate on whether Lewis, who endures a torrid relationship with his superior and yet remains endearingly loyal to the 'great' man, in some ways occupies an important space in the emotional vacuum of Morse's life. However, for me, part of the curiosity piqued by Dexter lies in the oblique insights into the unfamiliar elite world of high-end academia. Just as Agatha Christie's Poirot typically plies his detective skills in the upper echelons of the inter-war British class system, so Morse can help the reader navigate the revered institution of which he was once part. The stark contrasts of the public facade, with the soft underbelly of wider society and the seamless way in which Morse traverses the two lends the series a gritty realism and yet remains equally implausible enough to be obvious fiction. Still, the book is enjoyable for all that.


The discovery of a headless torso (also minus hands and legs) is unusual, but not gratuitously grotesque. Moreover, as Morse seeks to understand the purpose of such deliberate mutilation, it does provide a vehicle for the resumption of barbed banter with the police pathologist ('Max'), as the body count also mounts further. I think the brilliance of Morse lies in his ability to identify and assemble clues and marshall his thoughts to formulate them into a working hypothesis. The acknowledged value of Lewis lies in  the blunt challenge he poses to his boss's ideas and the debunking of the fanciful, to keep Morse planted on terra firma. They are, it seems, more than the sum of their respective parts, but In the tradition of Holmes and Watson, they are also a compelling double act and much more than an aside to their investigations.





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review 2015-10-13 00:00
The Riddle at Gipsy's Mile (An Angela Marchmont Mystery 4)
The Riddle at Gipsy's Mile (An Angela Marchmont Mystery 4) - Clara Benson Another body

Yet another murder Angela stumbles across. Good to read more about William and tells more of their history together. You can tell there is a love interest with herself and the inspector
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review 2015-05-27 17:34
The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter
The Riddle of the Third Mile - Colin Dexter
bookshelves: spring-2015, tbr-busting-2015, series, mystery-thriller, midlife-crisis
Read from May 16 to 17, 2015


5 hours 40 mins Read by Michael Pennington

Description: A dismembered body is fished out of the Oxford Canal--only the torso remains and Morse and Sergeant Lewis are up to the challenge. As if often the case, Oxford University is involved. A don has disappeared, leaving about a plethora of clues. It's the long and winding road down the halls of academe for the Thames Valley police and the trail bounces back and forth to London and some of its seedier spots. The scenario seems set with an opening scene out of World War II, when the Gilbert brothers (local boys from the Oxford area) face the horrors of the battle of El Alamein, the youngest of the three dieing. The company commander, a Lt. Browne-Smith just happens now to be a don in question at Oxford.

What a hoot this was, Dexter was well on form, he seems to have had fun playing around with some snappy repartee.

Long may it continue.

Anyway, for quick reference, this is the one with matching tooth-aches and removal men.

4* Last Bus to Woodstock (Inspector Morse, #1)
3* Last Seen Wearing (Inspector Morse, #2)
3* The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (Inspector Morse, #3)
3* Service of All the Dead (Inspector Morse, #4)
3* The Dead of Jericho (Inspector Morse, #5)
4* The Riddle of the Third Mile (Inspector Morse, #6)
3* The Wench Is Dead (Inspector Morse, #8)
3* Morse's Greatest Mystery and Other Stories
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review 2013-04-14 00:00
The Riddle of the Third Mile - Colin Dexter

One of the wonderful things about crime-novels writen more than 20-odd years ago is that they had no DNA-testing back then. Of course it's a great thing for the real world but for crime-stories it means that so many possibilities for great plotlines get ruined. This book is just possible because there is a lot of confusion about the identity of one body. Today it would be much easier to solve that problem (or at least tell that the body was not a certain person which also would helped a lot) but fortunately this book was written at a time where we didn't yet have all this and so we get another highly enjoyable read.
I don't think I can say anything new about this book what I didn't already say in my reviews of the previous Morse-novels. It is again really clever. Colin Dexter is one of the crime-writers who does not think that his readers are all stupid. I've read so many novels where a character mentioned some detail and immediately a warning-light flashed up in my head 'Remember this! It will be important later!' because there were hardly any other details mentioned. Morse-novels are different from this. A lot of details get mentioned and a lot of those will turn out to be not important at all (and with those that are important it is far from clear why they are important).
Dexter is also the only author who can write sentences like 'He did not yet know that he'd never return to Oxford' without annoying me because - like almost everything in a Morse-novel - it can easily be a red herring and not mean what you think it means.

I did feel a bit let-down by this one because I considered a small part of the solution somehow cheating and I missed the Morse-Lewis interaction. It was done so beautifully in the last one but here they barely had any at all.

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