Monday, May 23, 2016

The Jewel that was Ours (Chief Inspector Morse)

     Colin Dexter. The Jewel that was Ours (1991) This novel began as a TV script, The Wolvercote Tongue, in which a Saxon artefact figures as the McGuffin. A gaggle of US tourists descends on Oxford, one of them dies, the Tongue disappears, then one of the presenters turns up naked and very dead at Parson’s Pleasure. Morse as usual hares off after the wrong solution until an unrelated datum noticed by Lewis as an odd coincidence triggers the re-arrangements of the facts, which are beautifully summed up in chapters 57-59, and explain the dual meaning of the title. Chapter 60, the last, ties up a loose thread, another amorous disappointment for Morse.
     The novel is easy to read. Short chapters allow interruptions without losing the threads, which are satisfyingly tangled. If you don’t know Morse, the book is a good intro. Still, the whole reads like a potboiler. Dexter has developed a set of ticks and tropes that give the fan the comforting sense of a reliably familiar world. We can concentrate on the puzzle if we wish, or just let the TV-derived imagery carry us along. A well-done entertainment, but that’s all. **½

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