Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Farewell to Chief Inspector Morse

Reading the last novel in a series that you've really enjoyed is always something of a bittersweet experience, and such is the case with this, the thirteenth and last entry in Colin Dexter's series featuring Chief Inspector Morse. Through it all, Morse has remained his brilliant, cheap, curmudgeonly self, often irritating many of those around him, but nonetheless always producing a solution to a very complicated crime. And, standing by his side through it all, has been his faithful and often put-upon sergeant, Lewis, who loves working with Morse even if the man can often be a selfish pain in the butt.

Throughout the years, Morse has always consumed way too much alcohol and tobacco for his own good, while lying to his doctors and to everyone else about his bad habits. But inevitably, those bad habits are catching up with him and even though his health has taken a decided turn for the worse, he refuses to make any real concessions to his health problems.

As this book opens, Morse is on a temporary leave, resting up, when his boss, Superintendent Strange, asks him to take on a new case, or an old one, actually. A year earlier, a woman named Yvonnne Harrison was found murdered in her home, naked and handcuffed in her bed. Mrs. Harrison was reputed to be a woman of interesting sexual habits, but all of the obvious suspects, including Mr. Harrison, seemed to have iron-clad alibis, and the original investigation got nowhere. 

But now, Strange tells Morse that he has received two anonymous phone calls with new leads in the case and he wants Morse, his most brilliant investigator, to take it over. Morse is almost always keen to take on a complicated case, but in this instance he refuses, claiming that his health is bad and that he's not interested in the case. Strange assigns Sergeant Lewis to run down some leads, but Lewis discovers that Morse, although claiming not to be interested, is already about two steps ahead of him.

As the situation unfolds, additional bodies will fall by the wayside; Morse will finally be drawn into the case, and, fitting for the climax of the series, it's one of the most complex of his career. As always, the plot is extremely convoluted and one wonders if even Chief Inspector Morse will be able to sort it all out.

This is a book that will appeal to those who like traditional British mysteries or who have enjoyed the television series featuring John Thaw as Morse. It's been great fun working my way through them all again.

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