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on 6 September 2000
"Service of All The Dead" brings Inspector Morse into the murder of a churchwarden where nothing is what it appears to be.
As usual Colin Dexter conjures up a magnificently twisting plot that starts out simply and revolves into another complex mystery that only Morse can solve.
Although the plot of the novel is quite complex, Dexter manages to ensure that the reader is not too confused and brings the action along at a speedy pace which encourages prolonged reading. The character of Morse shines through the novel in a way that it never does when watching the television version. There is a wealth of supporting characters with well plotted histories and one of the best aspects of a Dexter novel is seeing Morse discover their involvements with the central murder of the novel and this one is no exception. Their motivations are always believable, as are their characteristics.
The actual details of the how and the why are a little more obvious than usual in this particular novel, but there is still a great detective story at the heart of this novel.
"Service of All The Dead" is a solid detective novel with wit and thrills in abundance. Highly recommended, if not the best in the series of Morse novels.
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VINE VOICEon 21 March 2011
Colin Dexter was born in 1930 and, over the course of his writing career, has won CWA Gold Dagger and Silver Dagger awards. "Service of All the Dead" was first published in 1979 and is the fourth book to feature the famous Inspector Morse.

Morse's investigation centres on St Frideswide's Church, a historic church that proves popular with the tourists. It's a while before Morse makes his first appearance, with the early part of the book setting the scene and introducing the key players. The Reverend Lionel Lawson has been the church's vicar for around ten years, and is well educated - and pretty well-off - individual. There has been some speculation about the Vicar's personal life - some believe that one of Oxford's down-and-outs in his brother, while others gossip about his alleged sexual preferences. However, he does have a very healthy bank balance...although he has suspected for a while that someone has been helping themselves to the collection plate. When the book opens, he knows his suspicions are correct - and that the pilferer is Harry Josephs, the church's Warden.

Harry is an ex-soldier who joined the Civil Service after he left the forces. He'd been made redundant two years previously, and has since only briefly worked in a pharmacy. (His redundancy is something he's still a little bitter about). Harry's wife, Brenda, works as a nurse and he suspects - correctly - that she's having an affair with Paul Morris, the church's organist and a music teacher. Morris is a widower, and his son, Peter, sings in the church choir. He and Brenda have only been "together" for around three months, but he'd be very keen for Harry to conveniently disappear. (In fairness, Harry isn't exactly the innocent and wounded husband - he's been playing away from home with the church's cleaner, Ruth Rawlinson).

The book's opening section concludes in August, with the Rev. Lawson calling on Paul Morris; it then picks up again with Morse, the following April. In between times there have been two deaths at the church : Harry is dead, stabbed in the vestry and the Vicar subsequently threw himself to his death from the church's tower. Paul and Peter Morris have both left Oxford - very abruptly - and, oddly enough, so has Brenda Josephs. Despite being officially on holiday - never mind the fact that it was never his case to begin with - Morse starts poking about...

For me, this instalment is definitely better than the three previous books in the series : it has an interesting storylone and Dexter's writing has improved dramatically from "Last Bus to Woodstock". Morse's main hobbies remain drinking beer, listening to classical music and leering over the ladies - however, despite his occasional grumpiness, there's still something quite likeable about him. A quick and easy read overall.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 September 2014
I don't think I've read any of the Morse novels since The Remorseful Day in 1999. More than half my life ago. I saw an episode on TV and had a hankering to revisit them, so I picked this one up, as I remembered particularly grappling with it when younger, thinking I would get more out of it this time.

I certainly did - I remember being a bit puzzled by it the last time I read it, and certainly the solution is quite complex (I'm still not sure I'm absolutely clear on the motive for the first murder...), but I completely loved the experience of re-reading this. It was like returning to a favourite holiday destination after many years and finding it's still as beautiful as you remember. Dexter writes wonderfully slyly, and plots exceptionally well. The whole thing is gripping, mysterious, fun, witty, intelligent. Blah blah blah. I'm keen to re-read a few more, now.
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on 18 December 2013
As a fan of Lewis predominantly I've often considered picking up the original Morse books to see how they fare to the more modern tv series.
The first few novels were very good and it was romantic and nostalgic to be drawn back into the late 70's. As this book moves into the 80's Morse's character seems to have been fully developed by Dexter and, although its hard to separate the literary Morse from the obvious mental relationship with the imagery of Thaw's fine performances (he played him even better with the benefit of hindsight and a few Morse books under my bely as it was), Dexter's character is rather likeable and interesting.
The plot line is an interesting commentary on morality and human foibles, Morse often displays a charming ambiguity to the former and suffers plenty of the later so in all it's a lovely and engaging read.
I'll work my way through the back catalogue with relish.
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on 10 December 2014
I read this out of curiosity (and attracted by the cheap price!). I'm not a regular reader of crime fiction, so I can't judge how it compares with others of the genre. As a novel, it was readable and engaging, though with minimal descriptions and stereotypical characterisation for the most part and, of course, a quite ludicrous plot. Certainly, it cuts it as an easy read. The set-up is familiar from Sherlock Holmes - the brilliant but flawed detective with his dumb but brave and faithful sidekick, the local police missing the clues and the Machiavellian villain.

And in its own terms, it manages to introduce the requisite number of false trails and red herrings to keep the 'whodunnit' guesswork going. I did manage to guess the outcome about two thirds through, but without really knowing why, and other possibilities were still open. Good fun is had by all.
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on 13 June 2011
More bodies than anyone knows what to do with.

Endless twists and double-twists in the plot, right to the very last page.

Morse ending up in bed with one of the defendents.

The stabilising,comforting and reliable presence of Lewis, never far away.

Just enough clue dropping to keep the reader always a pace or two behind the action.

All the ingredients of another great Colin Dexter novel, with the dour and pedantic Inspector Morse, left to unravel the truth from the lies, with his usual flair for lengthy explanations of his theories, delivered with not a little wit and sarcasm lurking not too far beneath the surface.
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on 30 May 2016
Great read if your enjoy the murder mystery genre. Nice and easy to read, great storyline with many twists & turns, if you have read any of Colin Dexter's books in the past and enjoyed them you will not be disappointed.
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on 21 December 2014
I have only recently got round to reading the Morse books and I can't say I'm impressed.Each one, so far, including this one, has been rambling, tedious, repetitive and barely credible, with a tacked-on, unconvincing ending, as though the writer had run out of ideas. Unusually I find the TV adaptations superior to the feeble novels with their stereotypical caricatures and the TV plots, however modified, are far more engaging. Some might find the crude, dirty old man Morse of the novels a turn on and regard his vulgarity compensated for by his erudition. Just inferior Holmes and Watson stories.
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on 17 August 2012
I bought this book (published in large print) for an elderly relative. She was delighted with the book and told me she would recommend it to anyone who loves crime.
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on 8 April 2015
Well written fact gathering mission that proves to be as confusing and difficult to unravel as any saga involving misguided members of the human race. Interpreting the resulting misconceptions is Morse's forte!
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