Seen the lot on TV (many times over) but this was my second novel. Far greater detail on Morse himself, especially the back-story about his youth (script ideas for 'Endeavour', anyone?). Even more surprising was the time devoted to develop the character of Lewis whom I had dismissed as a blank sheet of paper in 'Last Seen Wearing'.
One surprise is the frequently used 'crime-writing' technique adopted by Mr Dexter. He seems to have discovered Mary Roberts Rinehart and the 'Had I But Known' school of writing. Numerous examples of '..if he would have found out then....' and, 'neither of them realised then what would have happened if..'. I assume this is just for this novel rather than the whole series.
There are some lovely pieces. The description of Lewis as ,'an unsuspecting catalyst' was just perfect. Likewise I liked the description of Morse as 'spouting improbable notions in the certainty that by the law of averages some might be near the truth'. This explains one of the frustrations with Morse; he gets it wrong so many times before gloriously getting it right.
A single-sitting read. The story progresses at the archetypal leisurely pace and is only spolied by the sudden torrent of exposition condensed into little more than a page and a half. At the moment I feel Mr Dexter's strengths may be Morse and Oxford rather than as a pure crime writer. Thankfully there are several more books to discover.
on 18 May 2008
This is very intelligent writing and engages the reader at many differing levels from the outset. A classic of the genre.
on 2 March 2002
It's certainly a crime of the most perplexing sort--so perplexing (and convoluted) that it
would take an Inspector Morse to separate the "facts" from "fiction"! In Colin Dexter's
Morse novel, one of a long series, the erswhile policeman finds himself "drowning" in a sea of clues,
lies, innuendos, red herrings.
A dismembered body is fished out of the Oxford Canal--only the torso remains and
Morse and Sergeant Lewis are up to the challenge. As if often the case, Oxford
University is involved. A don has disappeared, leaving about a plethora of clues. It's the
long and winding road down the halls of academe for the Thames Valley police and the
trail bounces back and forth to London and some of its seedier spots.
The scenario seems set with an opening scene out of World War II, when the
Gilbert brothers (local boys from the Oxford area) face the horrors of the battle of El
Alamein, the youngest of the three dieing. The company commander, a Lt. Browne-Smith
just happens now to be a don in question at Oxford.
Dexter pulls on punches as he permits Morse and Lewis to take on this
bizarre--certainly macabre--case. With his usual erudite style, the author's clever, at times
witty and ascerbic, plot and character development takes the reader for a great ride (and
read). Written in 1983, long before, one presumes, Dexter had envisioned Morse's demise
("The Remorseful Day"), "The Riddle of the Third Mile" is carefully orchestrated, with
the climactic results rushing in with a top crescendo! (The reader must be a bit careful as
the facts and events come almost as an onslaught!) The tone of this episode, despite its
shocking crime scenario, is one of greater levity than some of his later books ("The Wench
Is Dead," for instance),but it was written some 15 years before "Remorseful Day," and the
tone and atmosphere are naturally different. This one gives additional insight into Morse's
earlier (younger) days, of his stepping down from Oxford and of the first love of his life
(Morse is ever the eternal optimist when it comes to beautiful women!). Dexter also fills
this one with his usual literary allusions, clever references, and an incredible vocabulary
(probably only equated by Dame P.D. James or William Buckley, themselves!).
I found this one probably to be the most delightful and intriguing of the Morse series,
perhaps because of the levity he chooses to exhibit. Regardless, readers of the Morse code
will find this episode in fine keeping with the others. A good read!
on 9 December 2014
Very good read, I'd forgotten how confusing the Inspector Morse books actually are. The TV portrayal by John Thaw was really good although a bit more 'sociable' than in the books. This story had me guessing right to the end, and I might buy some more in future. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a brain twisting mystery to get their teeth into. I do wonder though if all the Colleges in Oxford have the same petty jealousies and conflicts shown?
on 14 December 2014
It's not bad but nowhere near as good as the television series, in the book it's as though he is in conversation with you but not telling you a story.
I found it a little off putting but thing about it enjoyable, I did finish the book but I found the Morse Character different from what I was expecting, however I will try another book by this author.
on 28 December 2014
This a highly convoluted story, typical of Colin Dexter. This is only the second book of his that I have read & it makes me think that he is showing off his erudition; but then he is a college professor. My wife and I have always enjoyed the TV series.
on 4 December 2014
I have read, and thoroughly enjoyed, a lot of Morse books but sad to say didn't really like this book very much. Well written and certainly holds the attention but the story peters out rather than concludes which is disappointing.
on 12 February 2015
I have read almost all the Inspector Morse books and thoroughly enjoyed them. However this one didn't quite grip me in the same way; I found myself putting it down more often than the other books. I think it is because I found the story somewhat improbable. Nevertheless I would not say don't read it.
In any long literary series there will be variation in quality. Nevertheless, it is disappointing when the dip is as great as in this sixth book, almost the midpoint of Colin Dexter’s Morse and Lewis series. Any new reader should most certainly not judge the author’s abilities by this story.
Set in Oxford and London, the plot has its origins in North Africa in WWII. Following this opening chapter, the book is divided into three parts – presented as ‘miles’ according to St Matthew’s text ‘And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain’.
Most unusually, one can feel the author struggling to maintain thematic control over a book that continually threatens to escape in all directions. Even such quintessential elements as Morse’s crossword solving, hate of inspecting dead bodies, of which there are many, long silences and gazing out of windows, and his attraction to younger women are all handled in a surprisingly unsubtle manner, whilst the plot, or plots, are confusing. Dexter introduces a great many poorly-described characters, including multiple brothers and academics, and it is hard to keep track of them all. This is particularly unfortunate as the conclusion depends on remembering who’s who and who went where.
The investigation begins with the disappearance of an Oxford bachelor, Dr O. M. A. Browne-Smith [anagram alert], an English don from Lonsdale College, who goes missing after receiving an anonymous invitation to visit a Soho sex club. Unusually, we follow him on the first part of this journey and so for much of the story are one step ahead of the police. When a mutilated corpse, missing its head, legs and an arm is hauled out of a river, expectations that it is the missing don are high, and get higher when it is found to be wearing his suit. Other bodies follow, including one in a cupboard. Morse is particularly tetchy, explainable only in part by a severely-infected tooth, and only establishes the truth after a great many false starts.
The investigation proceeds as normal, with Morse cogitating and Lewis carrying out the hard work, and many rivalries within Lonsdale College are revealed. One of the more interesting features for Morse lovers the is information that Dexter divulges about Morse’s early life, including his time at Lonsdale College and an early and very significant love affair. The source of Morse’s pedantry about language and grammar is also revealed.
Written more than 30 years ago, this story is very much of its time, being steeped in riddles and puzzles of all kind. Today these seem constantly to interrupt the flow of the narrative, and detract from rather than add to its impact. Chapters are introduced by a sentence describing the action to be described [as in ‘Wherein such diverse activities as dentistry, crossword-solving, and pike-angling make their appropriate contributions to Morse's view of things.’], itself a throwback to an earlier age.
This is a book more for fans of the author and his main characters than for the general reader.
on 26 April 2016
Okay, let’s lay down some truth on this one. I read over half of this book, the second half, whilst getting the train home on Christmas Eve. Beer was involved. I don’t really remember the final fifty pages.
Still, it was alright – it was eminently readable, although maybe not as addictive as some of the other Morse novels that I read. In fact, I’d potentially re-read this again in the future, so that I could pick up on some of the subtle nuances that passed me by this time round.
Loosely speaking, the story line follows Morse’s investigation when a body is discovered which is missing its head, its arms and its legs. This makes identification difficult, if not in possible, and we’re forced to ask ourselves, as the reader, why somebody would go to that much effort. Are they trying to hide the identity of the victim? Perhaps.
There was a big twist at the end of the book which added an additional element to the story line, but I struggled to follow the train of thought that led to the conclusion. In some ways, this spoiled the book for me – it felt like I’d spent ages reading up on the history of the case, and then the denouement at the end was whizzed over. But again, that could be the beer.
So overall, I’d say that this book was okay, but there are better Colin Dexter books on the market. Read this only if you’ve worked through the others.