Silent World of Nicholas Quinn
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About the Author
Colin Dexter lives in Oxford. This is the thirteenth and final Inspector Morse novel. Colin Dexter has won many awards for his novels and in 1997 was presented with the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for outstanding services to crime literature. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Nicholas Quinn is a young academic who has recently been hired as one of the four examiners in the employ of Oxford's Foreign Examinations Board. The Board is a semi-private syndicate that administers and grades tests in English language and history to students overseas, a demonstrated competence in English being mandatory in today's international business world. This is especially true in the Arab Gulf states, where there are piles of money to be made by those who get the contracts. But the Board is also dependent on its reputation for integrity in its testing and for security in protecting those tests from subversion, and when Quinn is found murdered by cyanide, it doesn't take Morse long to wonder if perhaps Quinn learned something he wasn't supposed to know. Because the dead man was also almost totally deaf and was a very talented lip-reader. You can see where this is going, can't you? And it doesn't help the police that almost everyone who knew Quinn is arguably a suspect. But while Morse likes to play his little games, even if it really annoys the hell out of the more stolid Sgt. Lewis, he does finally get there, and the journey to the solution is a highly enjoyable one, with ready wit, well-drawn characters, and a plot intricate enough to hold your attention.
Nicholas Quinn, very deaf, is hired to become one of the staff of an Oxford group that makes up examinations for foreign students. Quinn has learned lip reading in order to survive in his profession, and it's the lip reading that ultimately dooms him. At first the hiring committee was reluctant to hire Quinn, but he was championed by a chemist named Roope. Quinn is poisoned, and another of the staff members is murdered.
As usual timing and alibis are crucial in a Morse mystery. This one revolves around the various times that suspects took trains and attended a certain movie house. Coincidence plays a great part in a Dexter plot. It's a wonder that Morse doesn't get in trouble with the public accusations of guilt and the later retractions he has to that make. His brilliant deductions are often the result of sheer luck rather than his keen intelligence.
As usual Morse is attracted to one of the female suspects, and he becomes very jealous of her when he finds that she is fooling around and even calls her a tart. Certain women get turned onto him, but nothing ever seems to come of it so Morse subsists on his Classical music, his pints of beer and an occasional scotch.
When Morse interrogates suspects, he sometimes lies to them in order to gain information. Morse is brilliant but can make unbelievable gaffs. It's fun to watch the verbal sparring between the pig-headed Chief Inspector Morse and the commonsensical Lewis.
There is a very complicated solution in this one which numbs Morse's listeners with its intricacies, and it'll be a numbing experience for the reader as well. As usual Morse keeps coming to the wrong conclusions until the very end. If killers really came up with schemes as elaborate and intricate as Dexter dreams up, our detectives would have be Mensa-types to capture them.
The book opens with the aftermath of a round of interviews at Oxford University. The position, recently vacated by George Bland, is with the Foreign Examinations Syndicate - Bland has since moved abroad to open a new examinations centre. As his replacement, the Syndicate's secretary - Tom Bartlett - is quite keen on a chap by the name of Fielding...and, initially, seems to be getting the candidate of his choice. However, thanks to the intervention of a colleague called Roope - a chemist, who'd formerly spent 2 years with the Anglo Arabian Oil Company - the panel appoints Nicholas Quinn instead. Bartlett isn't at all happy - he and Roope clearly don't get on with each other, and Bartlett is convinced that Quinn's deafness with cause significant problems. Unfortunately for Quinn, he'd have been better off not winning the position : by the fifth chapter, he's dead.
The first few chapters race through the final months of Quinn's life, treating us to a quick tour of the Syndicate before Morse makes his appearance. The syndicate based in a very grand (and historic) building...though it is now a little cramped for the staffing levels. While his hearing had admittedly been poor, only the telephones had caused him any real problem (Luckily, he had been expert lip-reader). The most significant event had been the wooing of delegation from the Sheikdom of Al-jamara. The Sheikdom, thanks to its bountiful oil reserves, has plenty of money....something the Syndicate badly needs.
Morse is still some way off a fully rounded character in this book. He seems to have had a little in common with Quinn - both were single men who enjoyed leering over the ladies. (Morse's other main hobbies are apparently drinking beer, listening to classical music and taking on the crossword in the Times). He's also a rather grumpy character, and it's his dim-but-occasionally-lucky sidekick, Lewis, who bears the brunt of Morse's bad moods. Overall, I'd say this book is a great improvement on its two predecessors - though, at times, it's still a little too refined and unconvincing for me to take it entirely seriously.