Top positive review
"It's this wretched love business."
on 3 June 2006
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.