Joanne’s Mystery Picks

morse562THE REMORSEFUL DAY by Colin Dexter

If you’re like me and count the days (which are actually months or years), until the next book in the particular series that you’re reading, there’s something to be said for going back and re-reading that series, chronologically, from the very beginning.  This works particularly well if the series is complete, finished, with no further episodes to be written.  This is what I recently did with Dexter’s Inspector Morse series.  With only 13 books in the series, it certainly wasn’t an onerous undertaking.

What I gained by reading these books back-to-back, was a new appreciation for Dexter’s cunning and brilliance at creating this much-loved character (characters if you count Lewis – and one should!).  With each successive book Morse moves from a one-dimensional character to someone full-formed.  The reader begins to understand how his mind works and how his history has shaped him into the person he has become.

In The Remorseful Day, Morse is both at his finest and at his worst.  His mind is still so very sharp as his body begins to fail him.  But Morse certainly doesn’t fail those with whom he’s worked so closely with over all the years of his career.  In fact, he does the opposite – he saves them.

In reference to this final Morse novel, Beryl Bainbridge says: “What construction!  What skill!  Why isn’t this author ever on the Booker shortlist?”  Yes – he should have been, for this is truly a brilliant piece of writing.

5 daggers
Joanne gives this “5 daggers out of 5”.

Check out Joanne’s other Inspector Morse reviews: Last Bus to Woodstock, The Dead of Jericho

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

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The Dead of Jericho by Colin Dexter

The Old Silent by Martha Grimes

I’m currently reading (and re-reading in some instances) the Morse and Jury series by Colin Dexter and Martha Grimes, respectively, and enjoying the experience immensely.  Of course the approach that each of these authors takes to their subject is quite different from each other.  However, they both create believable characters and compelling stories.  The Dead of Jericho, Dexter’s fifth book in the Morse series and The Old Silent, Grimes’ tenth book in the Jury series are perfect examples of cracking good mysteries!

Morse is wracked with guilt, remorse, and regret when Anne Scott is found hanged in her kitchen, the apparent result of suicide.  He became infatuated with her after they had a brief encounter a few days before and when he stopped by to act on his feelings and found her door unlocked but with no one apparently home, he left.  Now he’s determined to prove that her death was NOT suicide and his investigation uncovers all sorts of unsavoury details about her neighbours.  This case is a real puzzler for Morse and for the reader, and we’re kept guessing right up until the end.

When Richard Jury witnesses the murder of Roger Healey by his wife, Nell, in the  dining room of the Old Silent, a Yorkshire inn, he’s determined to find out what compelled this woman to kill her husband.  With his old friend, Melrose Plant, and a cast of characters, he begins to delve into events of the past that might shed light on Nell’s motivation.  He’s helped by a young girl, Abby, and her sheepdog, Stranger.  Never was there a more interesting character than Abby.  She’ll steal your heart away as you try and work out this marvelous puzzle that Grimes has set before us.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

15751561Last Bus to Woodstock: The 1st Inspector Morse Mystery by Colin Dexter

There’s always a danger when reading the books that a TV series is based on that one will prefer the TV program to the books and that the actors on the program will not “fit” with the characters in the book. That danger doesn’t exist with the first Morse book. For Morse, in Dexter’s first book in this series, is so very different from the Morse portrayed on TV by John Thaw that it’s easy to treat the book and the TV series as completely separate entities. Yes, there are commonalities between the Morses: their love of Wagner, crossword puzzles, and the “occasional” pint, but there the similarities seem to end. Dexter’s Morse is not so self-assured; he second-guesses himself and waffles between the obvious and the obscure. When a young woman is found murdered in the car park of a pub, Morse determines that a sexual predator is at large and that the public is in danger. But with each lead dismissed, Morse struggles to make sense of the crime, believing that it needs to be seen in a different light. We see a small part of the private Morse and get a brief glimpse of his vulnerability. One of the more shocking aspects of this novel is the attitude that the characters have to the crime. Such an attitude would not be tolerated today, but then this book was published in 1975, when that was the status quo. It will be interesting to see if “book vs TV series” continues to be as dissimilar as this first instance as I work my way through the rest of the novels. One thing is for certain and that is that I liked the book equally as well as the TV program that was based on it.

 

languageThe Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Detective Esa Khattak and his partner Detective Rachel Getty of Canada’s Community Policing Section are thrust into the center of a terrorist cell that is planning an attack on New Year’s Day.  Khattack’s friend, Mohsin Dar, working as an informant for INSET, Canada’s national security team, has been killed while investigating this cell.  With Rachel undercover in the mosque that houses the cell, Khattak works the periphery, gathering what information he can to identify the target of the attack.

Family plays a prominent role in this novel.  The members of the cell must work together as a family to achieve their goal and Esa, as head of his family, must act harshly at times, to guarantee the safety of his.

Khan’s beautiful writing can make us shiver as she describes Rachel’s trek across the snowy sidewalk and warm us all the way through as Rachel takes her first sip of a cup of steaming hot chocolate.

The author has given us a wonderfully intense mystery, layered with compassion, forgiveness ,and acceptance and characters who speak to our humanity.