Service of All the Dead  - Colin Dexter

Book 4 of 13 in the list of crime novels involving Chief Inspector Morse and a skilfully constructed murder mystery with an unusually high body count. In this volume, Colin Dexter has rather helpfully separated the book into discrete parts and though I'm not always a fan of this practice, in this instance it works rather well. For example, the first part lays out the interconnections between the key characters, all of whom are linked to the Oxford congregation of St Frideswide's. It means that Morse doesn't put in an appearance until chapter 6 and the good Chief Inspector is supposed to be on leave. Still, we learn some basic detail, such as Morse is aged 47 and still a bachelor, which may explain his consistent hankering for female company, but not so much why an apparently intelligent detective would again fall for a vulnerable perpetrator of crime (though also a victim of her circumstances) in this latest investigation. I fancy today the IPCC would be all over such dubious behaviour!

 

Still, the peeling back of the onion described by Dexter, as Morse dissects the complex layers of this case, is deftly managed. Moreover, the conclusion contained in a witness statement is a clever and innovative way to 'crack the case', as it corroborates Morse's deductions. In a humbling admission, the Chief Inspector acknowledges (though only to himself) that his leaning toward the convoluted can mar his ability to see the plainly obvious. Still, it is his cerebral machinations (and frailties) that keep Morse interesting.