As he brings his thirteen-volume Inspector Morse series (and his own writing career) to a poignant close with this 1999 novel, author Colin Dexter selects the title of this final book from an A. E. Housman poem, which celebrates the brilliance of sunrise and the sad inevitability of sunset--an appropriate symbol of the passage of time, an image of life and death, and a play on Morse's name. Here Dexter reveals far more about Chief Inspector Morse than in any of his previous novels, as Morse faces an especially complex and difficult case, at the same time that he is privately dealing with health issues.
A gruff and uncompromising man of unquestioned integrity and honesty, Morse is a music buff with a love for literature and syntax, a man who frequently corrects the grammatical errors of Sgt. Lewis, his loyal, hard-working, and less educated assistant. Suffering from "indigestion" and diabetes, Morse blithely ignores the dietary regimen recommended by his doctors, experimenting with his insulin dosage while continuing to indulge his love of scotch whisky, both at home and in local pubs, where he and the tee-totalling Lewis often conduct their interviews.
In this case, Morse surprises Sgt. Lewis by being less than enthusiastic about investigating a "cold case," a murder the previous year of a nurse, Yvonne Harrison, who was found handcuffed, gagged, and nude in her bed. Morse knew Yvonne when he himself was hospitalized, and Sgt. Lewis begins to suspect, for the first time ever, that Morse may be hiding information about the case, for his own reasons. Lewis continues to investigate as conscientiously as he can, mostly on his own, though this case, with its unusually large number of suspects, possible motives, red herrings, additional murders, wrong turns, financial maneuverings, and missing evidence, is one that cries out for better cooperation between Morse and Lewis.
Ultimately tying up all the loose ends and resolving the issue of Morse's honesty, Dexter creates dramatic and moving scenes, showing the depth of the unexpressed feelings between Morse and Lewis and their respect for each other. For the first time, Morse reveals his vulnerability, and Lewis, seeing this, becomes stronger and more self-confident. Always concerned with bringing about justice and protecting those who are innocent, Morse, despite appearances, obeys his personal code throughout this valedictory novel, leaving a lasting legacy for the lovers of this series.