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The Glories of Studio Two
on 12 October 2010
Colin Dexter was born in 1930 and, over the course of his writing career, has won CWA Gold Dagger and Silver Dagger awards. "The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn" was first published in 1977 and is the third book to feature the famous Inspector Morse.
The book opens with the aftermath of a round of interviews at Oxford University. The position, recently vacated by George Bland, is with the Foreign Examinations Syndicate - Bland has since moved abroad to open a new examinations centre. As his replacement, the Syndicate's secretary - Tom Bartlett - is quite keen on a chap by the name of Fielding...and, initially, seems to be getting the candidate of his choice. However, thanks to the intervention of a colleague called Roope - a chemist, who'd formerly spent 2 years with the Anglo Arabian Oil Company - the panel appoints Nicholas Quinn instead. Bartlett isn't at all happy - he and Roope clearly don't get on with each other, and Bartlett is convinced that Quinn's deafness with cause significant problems. Unfortunately for Quinn, he'd have been better off not winning the position : by the fifth chapter, he's dead.
The first few chapters race through the final months of Quinn's life, treating us to a quick tour of the Syndicate before Morse makes his appearance. The syndicate based in a very grand (and historic) building...though it is now a little cramped for the staffing levels. While his hearing had admittedly been poor, only the telephones had caused him any real problem (Luckily, he had been expert lip-reader). The most significant event had been the wooing of delegation from the Sheikdom of Al-jamara. The Sheikdom, thanks to its bountiful oil reserves, has plenty of money....something the Syndicate badly needs.
Morse is still some way off a fully rounded character in this book. He seems to have had a little in common with Quinn - both were single men who enjoyed leering over the ladies. (Morse's other main hobbies are apparently drinking beer, listening to classical music and taking on the crossword in the Times). He's also a rather grumpy character, and it's his dim-but-occasionally-lucky sidekick, Lewis, who bears the brunt of Morse's bad moods. Overall, I'd say this book is a great improvement on its two predecessors - though, at times, it's still a little too refined and unconvincing for me to take it entirely seriously.