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Can you keep a secret, Inspector ?,
This review is from: Service of All the Dead (Pan crime) (Paperback)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.