Written in 1975, this is the first Inspector Morse mystery. I had never read any of the Morse novels before and have never seen the tv series, so I had no preconceptions about this book and no knowledge about it, except that it was set in Oxford. Inspector Morse himself is a slightly grumpy, bad tempered and elusive leading character and the author was obviously feeling his way with him. Sergeant Lewis, who works with him on the case, seems both a more grounded and less troubled character.
The novel begins with two girls waiting for a bus to Woodstock. Unsure whether or not they have missed the last bus, they decide to hitch a lift and one of them ends up brutally murdered. There are many different strands to the investigation - who picked the girls up, why did they not stay together and why has the other girl not come forward? The suspects include academics (thereby tying in the Oxford location) a trio of girls who share a house and a young man with a taste for dirty movies. Much of this novel reminded me of the casual sexism of the Seventies - lewd remarks abound and overt sexist remarks and attitudes ages the book in a way that made me recall how much I disliked television in that decade. However, Lewis had an innate niceness and Morse is obviously a character capable of deeper feelings, which will probably prompt me to read on. The plot itself was interesting and I feel sure this is a series which will improve, although the characters are still partly formed in this first book. The next in the series is Last Seen Wearing (Inspector Morse)