Chief Inspector Morse returns for his twelfth outing more than a little worse for the wear. His drinking and smoking, in particular, are now catching up with him and he's beginning to pay the price for all of the years through which he's neglected his physical well-being. Any number of people, including his faithful sergeant, Lewis, urge him to reform before it's too late, but any long-time reader of the series understands, like Lewis, that it isn't going to happen.
The demands of another complex and demanding case certainly won't help. As the book opens, the Master of Lonsdale College in Oxford has announced his retirement. Two candidates stand for election to the position. Each man wants the job very badly, although perhaps neither man wants to be the Master as much as his wife wants to be the First Lady of the college.
One would expect that the academics would get all of this sorted out within the confines of their own small world, but the larger universe intrudes when a young woman is found shot to death early one morning. There would appear to be no motive, but as Morse begins his investigation of the crime, he will discover that the poor woman did have a connection to one of the candidates in the college election. There's also a journalist involved, and the demands of the investigation will require poor Morse to have to work his way through a number of tacky strip clubs in Soho, a task he would never think to assign to his poor, overworked sergeant.
Like all of the Morse mysteries, this one is densely complicated, and only someone as gifted as the Chief Inspector will ever be able to sort it out--assuming that he lives long enough to do so. This penultimate addition to the series is another very very entertaining read, even if a little bittersweet, knowing that we're approaching the end of the line. It should certainly appeal to any fan of the series.