logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: ds-lewis
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
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.

 

 

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-17 13:09
Morse Gets Down and Dirty....
The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn - Colin Dexter

Book 3 of the Dexter 'set' and a brooding Chief Inspector Morse grapples with the murder of a newly appointed member of the Oxford Examination Syndicate. Nicholas Quinn was deaf and though talented, not the unanimous choice of the other 'syndics', to join their studious ranks. Still, Morse needs to tease apart the complex social connections and doggedly unpick the dense layers of motivation and alibi to unmask the culprit.

 

My only criticisms would be the author's penchant for conferring tawdry weakness indiscriminately (all of the key suspects appear to have an appetite for pornography). Dexter commonly challenges the superficial gloss of academia and Oxford, often juxtaposing it with contrastingly brutal and uncivilized aspects of 'real' life. However, the tarring of so many characters with the same feeble brush seemed strikingly implausible. So too, the final gathering of the academics to hear Morse's conclusion. It felt rather reminiscent of Agatha Christie's drawing room finales, but simply not as convincing.

 

I was coming round to the notion that fictional detectives are necessarily a reflection of their environment. But, in that case, Morse might be expected to evince rather more style and class. Certainly, in this book, the depth of the Chief Inspector's intellect is rather betrayed by the shallow nature of his character. Even the long-suffering, up-holder of standards, DS Lewis, seemed to be detrimentally affected, as he went about his gofer duties. Perhaps, Morse will rediscover his love of opera and Wagner, conspicuously absent in this episode and be once more elevated to higher things. One can but hope!

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-03 19:29
Morse losing his grip?
Last Seen Wearing - Colin Dexter

In many ways, I suspect the stuttering advance of Morse towards the solution in this case is far closer to reality than the more common application of fictional detective brilliance. Yet, while the unusual failure of of our hero's usually reliable brainpower is unsettling, in common with DS Lewis, I felt an irritating desire for Morse to 'get a grip'!

 

Of course, for Morse, an investigation badged as a 'missing person' is intrinsically boring. Even more so, since the teenager (Valerie Taylor) had been missing for more than two years and the prospect of tedious routine police work was unappetizing. Throw in the temporary absence of Lewis to illness and we catch sight of an unflattering side of the Chief Inspector, repeatedly flailing around hypotheses that he can't substantiate, without the grounding influence of his DS. Moreover the lewd thoughts of Morse, largely shorn of the civilizing effects of Wagner in this book, seemed a coarser, more shallow mortal. Perhaps this failure to behave as expected , to be 'off his game' and timorous in the face of potential defeat also contributed to an overall sense of disappointment.

 

Though the introduction of a murdered body did briefly suggest that Morse might shift through his mental gears in more familiar fashion, the early languid pace of the investigation was never really overcome. The tawdry nature of the circumstances were perhaps deliberately mundane, rather than sensational, which again contributed to the sense of ordinariness. I wouldn't want to suggest the writing wasn't exceptional, Dexter has a remarkable style, but for my part, I like Morse to be extraordinary, heroically so!

 

This is book two in the set of thirteen, but I am expecting greater things in the remaining novels.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?