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on 28 August 2009
For Oxford, the arrival of 27 American tourists is nothing out of the ordinary ... until one of their number is found dead in Room 310 of the Randolph Hotel. It looks like a sudden - and tragic - accident. Only Chief Inspector Morse appears not to overlook the simultaneous theft of a jewel-encrusted antique from the victim's handbag. Then, two days later, a naked and battered corpse is dragged from the River Cherwell. A coincidence? Maybe. But this time Morse is determined to prove the link ... .

That's the book in a nutshell and I am not giving anything away here because this is what it says on the back of the book. You can read it before you read the book.

Even though one can rather quickly establish an idea why the old lady is dead and who stole the antique and who might have done her in, all this does not seem to be important to Chief Inspector Morse. He completely ignores the old lady and her jewel and concentrates solely on the other corpse. In the end, he solves that murder and it does make sense in a way. He also solves the death of the old lady and the possible whereabouts of the antique, but these really do appear as an unimportant side-affair.

What I didn't particularly like about the book is that because of so many people involved - some of whom entertain rather interesting relationships amongst themselves - there are too many potential plots, which made it rather difficult for me to figure out what is happening. And because of that I found it almost impossible to follow Inspector Morse's train of thought. If it wasn't for his great reckoning at the end of the book, I would be left in the middle of nowhere.

On a positive note, the title of the book is excellent. The reader may have an idea what is meant by `The Jewel' but towards the end of the book it becomes quite clear that there is more than one possibility.

If you are new to Colin Dexter I would recommend one of his earlier books to begin with instead because this one might put you off Colin Dexter altogether. And that would be a shame.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 July 2016
This is a very self-contained story that centres on members of an American group who are travelling around England on an exclusive tour visiting places of historical and artistic significance, and those responsible for the Oxford part of their trip.

As is not uncommon, Morse and Lewis do not appear at the beginning. Rather we are introduced to the tour leader, John Ashendon, the curator of the Ashmolean Museum, Dr. Theodore Kemp, and the events organiser for the university, Sheila Williams. The latter have been having an affair for some time but Kemp now has his eye on someone else. The Americans include several retired couples, including Laura and Eddie Stratton, and the very opinionated Janet Roscoe the bane of other group members, their hosts and hotel staff. As ever, all of these characters are hiding secrets and several are involved with one another.

Laura Stratton has brought back to Oxford the ‘Wolvergate Tongue’, part of a Saxon belt buckle that was part of the estate of her first husband. She intends to present this to the Ashmolean who hold the other part of the buckle. Laura and Kemp have been communicating about this and the latter is relishing the publicity. Unfortunately before the presentation can be made the tongue is stolen and Laura is found dead, apparently following a heart attack. Enter Morse and Lewis. Subsequently one of the main characters is found dead.

Dexter perfectly describes Morse’s manner of detection [‘One of the most extraordinary things about the man’s mind was that any check, any set-back, to some sweet hypothesis, far from dismaying him, seemed immediately to prompt some second hypothesis that soon appeared sweeter than the first.’] and the frustration that Lewis feels as a result.

An initial difficulty with the story is the author’s need to introduce and describe a number of characters, and whilst he is able to do this for his English characters there is insufficient space to do this equally well for the Americans. As a consequence when these enter the story at different stages it is sometimes difficult to remember their backstories and motivations. From time to time the author’s transcription of American accents jars; even in 1991 it was far from humourous.

At this point in their relationship the characters of Lewis and Morse are very well defined but the latter’s insensitivity towards his junior colleague is still difficult to take. One wants to give Morse a shake and tell him just how badly he is behaving towards a colleague who holds him in such high regard, positively worshipping his deductive abilities. Part of Morse’s attitude may result from Lewis generally being the person who brings evidence that contradicts and destroys his current theory and sends him, and the reader, back to reconsider the case from a different perspective.

The hard slog of detection is always directed towards Lewis except when it might involve interviewing women that he finds attractive. At the end of this story he gets his comeuppance. Increasingly one seems some very dark and disturbed aspects in the detective’s overall character.

The relationship between Morse and Max, the pathologist, is based on mutual respect and Dexter injects a lot of barbed humour into their exchanges that are rather more extended than is usually the case. Elsewhere the humour is occasionally rather too contrived [Morse suggests that a serial philanderer’s motto is ‘amo amas amat it again’].

The final part of the book sets up and delivers a Poirot-style confrontation of the killer in a room full of avid listeners. Dexter continues to employ his very satisfying trait of preceding each chapter by a relevant literary quotation.

I read that this novel was developed from an episode of the TV series Inspector Morse, not written by Colin Dexter. Something must have appealed to the author for him to use it as the basis for the ninth book in the series.
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Featuring a large assortment of characters, most of them Americans on a tour of England, the ninth Inspector Morse mystery is heavy on details and complications and more difficult to follow than most other mysteries in this series. Laura Stratton is on the trip to donate the priceless, bejeweled Wolvercote Tongue to the Ashmolean Museum, which already has the ancient Wolvercote Buckle to which it belongs. Laura's death in her bathroom, the theft of the treasure, the subsequent murder of museum curator Dr. Theodore Kemp, a suicide, and a pedestrian accident in which a woman on the tour is run down by a car provide more than enough turmoil and mystery to keep Inspector Morse, his trusty Sgt. Lewis, and the local police force busy, full-time.

Morse must decide whether these events are all related and, if they are, if one person is responsible for all the mayhem. Because of the large cast of characters, there is little opportunity for individual character development, making it more difficult than usual to keep track of the many characters. In addition, some of the tourists, tour agency employees, and Oxford lecturers are having relationships with each other, further complicating the stories. All the characters have alibis. Many will vouch for each other, and those who appear guilty of some parts of a crime could not possibly have committed other parts of the same crime.

As Morse becomes frustrated by the complexities, many readers will also become frustrated--with the undeveloped characters, the red herrings, and lack of linear progression in the cases. In the conclusion, Morse draws the tour group together and outlines his case, step by step, telling them (and the reader)about what has happened, instead of showing the action while it is happening. Though Morse solves the case(s), the author keeps the reader at arm's length and prevents him/her from being part of the excitement as the mysteries are solved.

Because the development of Morse's character and relationship with Lewis, usually a high point in these novels, is sacrificed to the complexities of the cases, readers new to the series will gain little understanding of these two men and how they work together and apart. One of the most complex novels in the Inspector Morse series, The Jewel That Was Ours is filled with a large number of seemingly interchangeable characters, all of whom have unlimited potential for evil in a plot overly filled with red herrings.
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on 4 June 2013
The usual morse books promise eat deduction and good thinking and some credible situations. This one however, was a bit Chrstie-esque, with a coach load of Americans and a gathering and show-style explanation at the end. Still a good read, but not up to the plots of others
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on 13 February 2010
Brilliant story by Colin Dexter fantasically read by Kevin Whately. Loved it. Wish it was longer! :-)
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on 14 September 1999
Having read the other review I don't agree that the plots confusing. The characters are well introduced, though he cheats a bit toward the end in dragging us toward the convuluted conclusion. Nice interplay with Morse and Lewis, more of the (slightly unbelievable) irresistible sexual allure of Morse - and Dexter obviously testing our grammatical accuracy (becomes distracting). Other than that excellent Sunday afternoon reading - pour yourself a wine, the number of references to drink in the book it's almost compulsory.
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on 16 March 2015
I never did see any Inspector Morse on the TV, so I'm coming to the Colin Dexter stories from the other direction. They are very good. Sometimes a little confusing, but they will make me watch the TV series as a critic. Will I enjoy them as much as the books?
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on 23 January 2015
Today this seems a familiar story since the plot is almost echoed in the TV episode made from the book. But the original Morse books remain stimulating to read and the dialog is lively and fascinating.
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on 23 January 2016
A challenging piece of writing by Colin Dexter. As good as one would expect. Endeavour to work it out if you can
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on 5 March 2015
Like all the Morse books this is an excellent and very enjoyable read. However, it is somewhat spoilt by "facsimile" copies of handwritten notes at several points in the text which simply do not work at all on a Kindle. These notes and letters may add to the dramatic effect in a printed text, but are shown in such microscopic form on the Kindle that they are illegible, unless you have a magnifying glass to hand, and even then it's difficult. What a shame, and surely something that could be easily rectified by reproducing those passages as text instead. Come on Amazon, this shouldn't be beyond your capabilities!
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