The Daughters of Cain (Inspector Morse Mysteries) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Jan 1995
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‘This is Colin Dexter at his most excitingly devious’ Daily Telegraph --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
Bizarre and bewildering - that's what so many murder investigations in the past had proved to be . . . In this respect, at least, Lewis was correct in his thinking. What he could not have known was what unprecedented anguish the present case would cause to Morse's soul.
Chief Superintendent Strange's opinion was that too little progress had been made since the discovery of a corpse in a North Oxford flat. The victim had been killed by a single stab wound to the stomach. Yet the police had no weapon, no suspect, no motive.
Within days of taking over the case, Chief Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis uncover startling new information about the life and death of Dr Felix McClure. When another body is discovered, Morse suddenly finds himself with rather too many suspects. For once, he can see no solution. But then he receives a letter containing a declaration of love . . .
'This is Colin Dexter at his most excitingly devious' Daily Telegraph--This text refers to the Paperback edition. See all Product description
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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.
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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