on 31 January 2002
This is one of Dexter's first Morse novels and the characters are as strong as you would expect, but as yet the characters were very much his and hadn't, morphed into the characters we know from the television adaptations. Lewis was the older of the two, a granddad at this point! Though his character is otherwise much the same, an egg and chip loving Geordie with an innocent honesty. Morse actually drove a Ford Lancia, not having graduated to the Jaguar. Morse was still surly and generally unpleasant but the relationship between the two is quite different to the one that you are used to seeing on television. They are closer in private for example, as Morse can be found asleep on Lewis's sofa after Mrs. Lewis's egg and chips. But they are more distant in the working life with Lewis playing very much the straight an ill informed and ill imagined Dr. Watson. Though it is a simple who dunnit where you don't actually care by the end of it who actually did do it, it is still well crafted and presented. These books can sometimes jar with what you know as Morse and Lewis so it isn't always easy to see them as stand alone works of fiction, but Morse always worth a visit in its original form, especially in one of these earlier versions, even if it is only to sit back and list all the ways its different to the version you know!
on 15 February 2012
The Dead of Jericho is the first Morse novel I have read, and here's why: Unlike seemingly everyone else, I hated the TV series. Could not stand it. Same with Lewis. I can't abide with all that touristy, Oxfordy, Latin-tagged, academics-killing-visiting-violinists-in-St-Gervase's-under-cloisters stuff. Give me the gritty realism of Midsomer Murders any day.
I've avoided the Colin Dexter books as a result, despite their reputation. So I was surprised to find myself enjoying The Dead of Jericho. It does get off to a tweedy start with a line of Latin in the opening paragraph, but I kept my nerve and ploughed on.
Morse, drunk at a party, flirts with Anne Scott, an attractive younger woman who takes a liking to him and gives him her address. He doesn't follow her up on her offer at the time, but six months later he changes his mind and pops round to her house in the Jericho area of Oxford. The house is quiet but the door is open and he goes in to call out for her. Still no answer, but Morse's instincts tell him that somebody is hiding from him upstairs and he beats a diffident retreat. Later that day, Anne is reported dead. What at first seems like a straightforward suicide soon proves to be the first knot in the very tangled web which Morse has to unpick. He works unofficially at first, not wishing to reveal that he had visited Anne on the same day, but soon comes clean and is handed the case.
Morse is an interesting protagonist. Perhaps I never watched the TV version enough to gauge his character, but I would have summed him up as: crosswords, real ale, opera, grumpy. All of which is true, as his colleague Bell summarises:
`Cleverest bugger I've ever met... he usually seems to be able to see things, I don't know, half a dozen moves ahead of the rest of us... Spends most of his free time in the pubs - or listening to his beloved Wagner.'
(I think `his beloved Wagner' sounds less like a policeman than anything I've ever read.) However, Morse is more than the sum of these parts. He is refreshingly human:
`What an idiot - what a stupid idiot - he was! It was that first, cowardly evasion of the truth that had caused it all - all becuase he didn't want it to be known he had been floating around in Jericho looking for some necessary sex one afternoon.'
Sergeant Lewis doesn't really get to show his face until part three, but when he does, it's clear that the John Thaw/Kevin Whateley on-screen dynamic was pretty accurate. Lewis is in many ways the perfect `Watson'. Whilst my reading of this paragraph is that it is satirical...
`Morse knew in that moment exactly why he always wanted Lewis around. The man was so wholesome, somehow; honest, unpretentious, humble, almost, in his experience of philosophy and life. A lovable man; a good man. And Morse continued in a gentler, less arrogant tone.'
...the Watson role is 100% clear in this:
`He would indeed have been able to work it all out for himself had not Morse anticipated his activated musings.'
To sum up: I'd recommend The Dead of Jericho to Morse fans and the Morse-averse alike.
Colin Dexter was born in 1930 and, over the course of his writing career, has won CWA Gold Dagger and Silver Dagger awards. "The Dead of Jericho" was first published in 1981 and is the fifth book to feature the famous Inspector Morse.
"The Dead of Jericho" opens with Morse at a party. Not only is the thirsty lothario making the most of the hospitality, he's also trying it on with a significantly younger lady called Anne Scott. Presumably stuck for company, Anne quite happily chats to him for the rest of the evening and even suggests he calls to see her at some point. Unfortunately, Morse's evening is cut short with a phone call from Lewis and - suspecting a husband stashed away somewhere - takes six months to actually make it to Anne's house. Although someone appears to be in the house, nobody answers when he calls round...so he takes the hint and leaves. He's back that evening though, when news breaks that Anne has apparently killed herself - the news leaves Morse feeling a little suspicious and badly regretting a missed opportunity. His presence is only marginally official, given that DI Bell is in charge of the investigation. Of course, that isn't likely to stop Morse unofficially sticking his nose in.
I had hoped "Service of All the Dead"- the fourth Morse book - had seen the series finally hit its stride. Unfortunately not. While much is made of Morse's genius and his refined tastes, he seems to spend most of his time leering over the ladies and drinking prodigious amounts of beer. (It's well beyond the book's halfway point before Morse officially takes over the investigation and he barely seems capable of turning up for work sober. Five books into the series and it's become very easy to see how Armstrong and Miller came up with Jack Force). Dexter's writing is occasionally difficult to take seriously too : "He was drinking too heavily, he was smoking too addictively, fornicating far too frequently...Oh God, how he hated himself occasionally !" (Steady on, old chap. Next thing you'll be telling us that Oxford's schoolboys can call into a backstreet pub for a lunchtime pint and a spot of go-go dancing). Easily enough read overall, but it really isn't that difficult to find something a good deal better.
on 2 June 2016
If you’ve ever read a Colin Dexter book before then you should already know what to expect here. Dexter is a competent crime writer, and Inspector Morse has gone down in history as one of literature’s great detectives. I’m not convinced that he’s on a par with Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, but he is still a lot of fun to read. Especially if you’re working on a crime novel of your own, like I am.
In this book, Morse and Lewis get up to their usual tricks, investigating a murder in Oxford. Morse himself had a connection with the victim, albeit a brief one, and she’s not the only corpse to show up throughout the novel.
For me, The Dead of Jericho was a little below par for a Morse novel, although it still holds up its own enough against other crime books on the market. I read it in a couple of days, which is good – I sped through it, but the plot seemed to go in one ear and out the other, and only when Morse explained what had actually happened at the end of the book was I able to totally understand the story line.
So overall, I wouldn’t recommend starting with this book if you’re new to the Inspector Morse series, but if you’ve read one of the books before and you enjoyed it then you’re sure to enjoy this one, too. As for me, I’m planning on reading through each of the books, but I don’t think that the death of Anne Scott will keep me up at night. That said, the victims of a crime novel never seem to stick out to me – it’s usually the living that you remember.
This is not one of the best books in the series, mainly because its solution is so contrived that even Agatha Christie would have thought twice about using it. However, it succeeds through the character of Morse and, once he appears, of Lewis, and the interactions between the two. Jericho is definitely in the non-academic part of Oxford but the author’s descriptions of its character and inhabitants really draw one to its nooks and crannies, overturned rubbish bins and canal paths.
At a party, a morose Morse meets an attractive resident of Jericho, Anne Scott, and after they talk and flirt gently he feels drawn towards her. She gives him her address but, although he considers it, he does not visit her, partly because she is married and partly because of his own lack of self-confidence in establishing relationships. Some time later he has to attend a lecture in her neighbourhood. When he calls she is apparently out but, after the lecture has concluded, he finds police have been called to her home and have found her hanged.
Whilst Morse is as pedantic and infuriatingly acerbic as ever, the less-assertive side of his character and his loneliness is evident, and his feeling of loss causes him to pursue some ill-advised investigations into Anne’s death. Initially he has the young and inexperienced DC Walters to bully and bamboozle but before long he takes over the investigation formally and Lewis joins him. Whilst Lewis generally trails along trying to understand his boss’s thinking, just occasionally he manages to formulate an idea before Morse.
The plot has too many twists and turns to count and involves accidental death, an additional murder, blackmail, brotherly rivalry, much philandery, Greek mythology, a peeping tom, drug-taking and bridge-playing. Morse, as ever, creates convincing hypotheses but sees them come clattering down all around him.
For once, Morse recognises Lewis’ talents [‘The man was so wholesome, somehow: honest, unpretentious, humble, almost, in his acceptance of psychology and life. A lovable man; a good man.’] but still cadges drinks off him and omits to tell him with whom he has spoken and what he has found out.
In the mid-1980s, this novel was the first to be dramatised for television and introduced UK viewers to John Thaw’s Morse, surely the portrayal that most readers recognise.
on 25 July 2016
Re-reading this after many years, it does seem very dated – not just because of its setting in time, but also the less than logical approach taken to writing the novel. There are many ambiguities which are poorly explained. Dexter, as usual, focuses heavily on the use of English, with many of what would now be termed very un-PC generalisations.
on 20 November 2010
This is a fine crime novel from Colin Dexter. A woman romantically involved with Morse is found hanged in her home in Jericho, Oxford. Morse is determined to crack the case and Dexter weaves a typically convoluted plot. This novel is early Morse, but is still worth reading. The relationship between Morse and Lewis is getting there but is not as well established as in the later novels. None the less this is a very good novel with plenty of twists and turns. DCI Morse is a great character and Lewis, as ever, his dependable Watson. I enjoyed this book and I have re-read it recently. Dexter is able to give the reader enough clues about the killer's identity without giving too much of the game away. This novel was also brilliantly dramatized as the first ever Inspector Morse episode on television in 1987.
Very enjoyable whodunit.
on 30 May 2016
Great read if your enjoy the murder mystery genre. Nice and easy to read, great storyline with many twists & turns, if you have read any of Colin Dexter's books in the past and enjoyed them you will not be disappointed.
on 12 December 2014
As always Colin Dexter does not disappoint. The book had me glued and I found myself picking it up when ever I had the chance. I will not give away the ending but it was delightful if not a little sad. On to the next book.
on 7 October 2013
I just love this book, the way Morse and Lewis have found a mutually satisfying relationship, the way Morse gets his (not always so bright) ideas, and the way Colin Dexter has with words!
I recommend it (the English version!) to everyone who is interested in really great literature, and who is capable of reading in English (I'm Swedish and so are my friends and relatives).