In many ways, I suspect the stuttering advance of Morse towards the solution in this case is far closer to reality than the more common application of fictional detective brilliance. Yet, while the unusual failure of of our hero's usually reliable brainpower is unsettling, in common with DS Lewis, I felt an irritating desire for Morse to 'get a grip'!
Of course, for Morse, an investigation badged as a 'missing person' is intrinsically boring. Even more so, since the teenager (Valerie Taylor) had been missing for more than two years and the prospect of tedious routine police work was unappetizing. Throw in the temporary absence of Lewis to illness and we catch sight of an unflattering side of the Chief Inspector, repeatedly flailing around hypotheses that he can't substantiate, without the grounding influence of his DS. Moreover the lewd thoughts of Morse, largely shorn of the civilizing effects of Wagner in this book, seemed a coarser, more shallow mortal. Perhaps this failure to behave as expected , to be 'off his game' and timorous in the face of potential defeat also contributed to an overall sense of disappointment.
Though the introduction of a murdered body did briefly suggest that Morse might shift through his mental gears in more familiar fashion, the early languid pace of the investigation was never really overcome. The tawdry nature of the circumstances were perhaps deliberately mundane, rather than sensational, which again contributed to the sense of ordinariness. I wouldn't want to suggest the writing wasn't exceptional, Dexter has a remarkable style, but for my part, I like Morse to be extraordinary, heroically so!
This is book two in the set of thirteen, but I am expecting greater things in the remaining novels.