Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Dead of Jericho

Miss Lemon finds many things to like about Chief Inspector Morse, first made famous in the Oxford mystery novel series by Colin Dexter and further lionized by iTV. Although Morse and his sidekick, D.S. Lewis, obviously descend from the Holmes and Watson and Poirot and Hastings tradition, there is much that's modern and original about the pair's depiction.

Morse lives in Oxford, rather than London. He drives a Lancia.  He has an indefatigable appetite for English ale and cigarettes and can't get enough of Wagner. Like Miss Lemon, he has an obsession with working crossword puzzles. His hair is thinning and his waist is thickening. He's a bachelor, but not necessarily a confirmed one. In short, Morse is irresistibly human.

Except ... that we don't know his Christian name. (For the incurably curious, it is eventually revealed in Death Is Now My Neighbour 1996.)

Unlike many detectives who have preceded him, however, Morse isn't afraid to admit when he is wrong. Whether it's his failure to pick up the next round or the alacrity with which he'd like to pin the solution to a crime on the plot of a Greek tragedy, Morse is not infallible and never afraid to say so. Even if the tone of his admission is surly.

In The Dead of Jericho (1981), Morse finds a fleeting spark of romance with a woman who several weeks later is found hanged. Was it suicide? Or murder?

As Morse and Lewis investigate, they turn up a past that could have been written by Sophocles: a child given up for adoption; a father killed in a road accident; a rumoured love affair between a woman and a much younger man.

Just how close Dexter's plot hews to Aristotelian ethics, she shall leave for her readers to discover. She's sure you'll enjoy Morse's antics along the way.


  1. I watched all of them on television, but only read one. Should probably correct this error, now that some time has passed.

  2. This one was made into a TV episode that I enjoyed on DVD -- from what you've written, it sounds like it held pretty true to the book, so you may enjoy it, too.

  3. Have you by any chance watched Lewis on television? Though I maybe should whisper, I really like it better than Morse. I like the relationship between L. and Hathaway. I even like the stories better. As I said, whispering here. :<)

  4. Nan, I wouldn't say better, but I do think Lewis is quite a successful follow up to Morse. And yes, Hathaway was a brilliant stroke. Or else he's just a very good actor. Or both.