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4.5 out of 5 stars24
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on 20 November 2010
This is a superb novel from Colin Dexter. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I thoroughly recommend it. The relationship between Morse and Lewis sparkles in this novel and the plot is so gripping I read this book in a day on holiday. The plot revolves around three women ('The Daughters of Cain') who are connected to each other through their loathing of one man.
Morse first investigates the murder of Dr Felix McClure and Morse and Lewis have an immediate suspect. Morse becomes romantically involved with a young woman who may be connected with the murder of the second victim. This book is vintage Dexter and is very easy to read. The plot grips you and there are some good twists near the end of the novel. The Daughters of Cain is one of the best Morse novels and the subplots and suspense keep you reading right to the end.
Excellent stuff
5 stars
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There is so much more within this book than ever appeared in the television series. I watched and enjoyed every story with John Thaw as Morse but was amazed at how much I learnt about his characters from each story I have read. I also found each chapter very easy to read and follow and if I did not know what the references were I looked them up so I learnt lots of things from this story.
I have read many detective stories and often there is too much technical detail and you almost feel as if you are reading a users manual. I never get this feeling with a Colin Dexter story but what I do get is great entertainment and I find I cannot put the book down unlike others.
I am looking forward to my next Colin Dexter already and know I will enjoy the characters he brings to life and the settings he uses within Oxford.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 June 2016
One of the criticisms of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series, written between 1975-99, is its rather stereotypical treatment of its female characters. This was never more justified than in ‘The Way Through the Woods’, 1993. In his next book from 1994, Dexter placed three remarkable women, each quite remarkable but very different, at its centre. In addition he introduces Morse and Lewis early on, rather than making the reader wait for their appearance.

The women are each very different - Julia Stevens is a rather disillusioned secondary school teacher; Brenda Brooks, her cleaning lady, is in an abusive relationship with her husband, Ted, a cleaner at an Oxford college, whilst the third woman, Ellie Smith, is much younger and working as a prostitute when the reader first meets her.

The violent event that opens the book is the stabbing of an Ancient History don, Dr Felix McClure, whose limited reputation was based on his book ‘The Great Plague at Athens: Its Effect on the Course and Conduct of the Peloponnesian War’ [‘A long title. A long work.’]

The untimely death of a colleague’s wife brings Morse and Lewis into this investigation and they quickly link McClure to the suicide of a student, drug-taking and the departure of Ted Brooks from the college. As is typical of Dexter’s books, Morse sets up a series of hypotheses that come crashing down when further evidence is found, often by the hardworking Lewis. Gradually the links between the three women emerge but then Ted Brooks disappears.

The background to this book involves education [from the Oxford élite to class 5C of Procter Memorial School] and class [highlighted in the dialogue between the main characters], Morse’s ill-health and debilitating loneliness, exacerbated by the women that he meets and feels attracted to. As the policeman’s weaknesses are revealed it becomes rather less surprising that they are attracted to him. This novel is also about the complexities of deep friendships between males and between females, and the qualitative differences between them.

The backgrounds of the three main female characters are very well constructed and sympathetically revealed; each has experienced great difficulty but each comes across as truly convincing. The final pages being especially haunting, even if not totally surprising. The details of the plotting are up to the author’s usual high standard [although this cannot be classified as a conventional whodunnit] and his trademark quotations that introduce each chapter, pepperings of outrageously long and obstruse words [Morse/Dexter comments that Lewis’ wife spoke in ‘anapaestic pentameters, and anapaestic hexameters’, but then she is Welsh], and clues set by a cruciverbalist [one of which is not solved until right at the end] will please regular readers of this series.

From this book onwards, the series becomes increasingly overshadowed by Morse’s declining health [failing liver and kidneys, high blood pressure and cholesterol, ulcers, diabetes….], heavy drinking and his realisation that his time on the force is coming to an end, and Lewis’ realization just how deep is his concern for his superior.

This is a very different story to the previous book, which I also rated 5*. Each story is best read in sequence to get the full flavour of the changing relationship between the two detectives.
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on 1 March 2001
I am new to reading full length novels (i'm only 11) and i decided to start with this one. I can honestly say that this novels has inspired me to read. The plot is great, teh writing brilliant, the characters really interesting. I have no fault at all with this book. it is entirely thought provoking and you can totally understand the motives of the criminal(or criminals) and even feel a certain compassion for them, no you DO feel compassion for them. This book has shaped my future reading material. thank You Mr Dexter.
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The Daughters of Cain has always retained a soft spot in my heart - I read it when I was about 12, it was the first "adult" book I read, and the first mystery novel. Coming back to it 17 years later, I was slightly nervous I wouldn't like it so much for some reason (I'm making my way through all the Morse novels, tripping through them with glee). I needn't have worried - even on second reading this is one of my very favourites of the series. Whilst there are elements of the plot that are convoluted, they are convoluted in a more simple way than in some Morse novels, and Dexter spends a bit more time on the psychologies of his major characters - Brenda Brooks, Julia Stevens, and Ellie Smith. To be honest, that's what I remember liking so much the first time around, that holy trinity of women who make up the main cast. And I liked it just as much the second time around. The whole novel is a rounded and satisfying portrait of various types of justice. Wonderful. Colin Dexter's style is one of the most enjoyable I've ever had the pleasure to read, and re-reading them all has been a revelatory experience - somehow, I had forgotten!
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on 20 September 2014
Dexter's Morse has grown and developed into an utterly compelling character. Reading about him, his thought processes and interaction with the world and people around him, is as much a reason to buy these books as the criminal plot lines themselves. It just so happens this story with its principle triumvirate female cast is a belter. With only two books left in the series I am saddened as this wonderful set of books draw to a close.
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on 11 October 2015
It is what it is.😉
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on 22 January 2014
Bought this to complete my collection of 13 Morse books. What more can I say without letting the cat out of the bag? Morse at his Morsest, I suppose.
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on 11 February 2010
Bought as a surprise for my 83 year old friend who is going blind and misses reading. She was delighted with them.
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VINE VOICEon 6 September 2012
I thought I would like the Morse books - intellectual detective stories with plenty to satisfy the user. I was wrong. I hated this book, and I hated it because of the writing style. Colin Dexter writes in an extremely irritating and self-absorbed style. Every piece of narrative seems to come with a little (pointless and annoying) comment in parentheses. The whole thing feels smug and pretentious. This is compounded by the fact that the author alludes to the perpetrators of each element of the mystery in the narrative even though no evidence has yet been uncovered. Thus there is no real mystery and we just have Morse shambling along piecing together things that the reader already knows.

I just couldn't get into it and struggled to finish it. It's a shame because, in the hands of Ruth Rendell or Ian Rankin, this could be a cracking story. Instead it's a self-congratulatory and irritating book to read.
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