Onyx reviews: The
Remorseful Day by Colin Dexter
A recent British review of The Remorseful Day opened with
"The secret's out..." and proceeded to give away one of the most
important details of the ending of this book. Have no fear, no such revelations
will occur in this review. However, there is a very good reason why the novel
has the words "The Final Inspector Morse Novel" printed conspicuously
at the top of the dust jacket.
Inspector Morse is not a well man. The novel opens with a typical bantering
scene between the acerbic but lovable Inspector and the nurse who has been
taking care of him during a stay in the hospital. Morse, who has been abusing
his body with liquid lunches and dinners for longer than anyone can remember,
has become diabetic.
The story then jumps forward a year. Chief Superintendent Strange has
received anonymous letters which prompt him to reopen a murder investigation.
The victim, as fate would have it, was that very same nurse Morse was seen
flirting with in the prolog. As it turns out, Yvonne Harrison was known as more
than a flirt, much to the consternation of her husband and two adult children.
Morse is reluctant to get involved in this case, so most of the work falls to
his long-suffering friend, Sergeant Lewis. Lewis appears to have taken some
self-confidence lessons and perhaps an IQ refresher course, as he is much more
on the ball in this novel than ever before. Readers unfamiliar with previous
Morse novels will not notice anything out of the ordinary, but the sudden
revamping of Lewis, from a diffident, slow-witted, methodical flatfoot into a
perceptive and literate foil for Morse is a little hard to swallow.
Morse, of course, is Morse. Or rather, he is John Thaw, the actor who has
portrayed the inspector in numerous adaptations of Dexter's novels. In recent
novels, Dexter has converted his version of Morse into one which more closely
resembles the actor who has popularized the character. Since Dexter has been
closely involved in the screen adaptations, it is not a surprising transition,
but one wonders whether an author should change the physical attributes of his
main character just to have him conform more to the screen version.
The mystery is one of Dexter's typical convoluted schemes which is, for all
intents and purposes, completely impossible to work out until Morse and Lewis
get everything straight. It never helps matters that Morse generally goes off on
a wild goose chase at least once in every novel, absolutely convinced that he
has it right, only to be proven wrong. And, occasionally, to be proven right
again. Along the way, several more murders occur as the complex plot begins to
Lewis has serious concerns that Morse's involvement with the deceased may be
greater than anyone suspects and it is with a heavy heart and a careful eye to
detail that he coaxes and cajoles Morse into a more active part in tracking down
the murderer of Nurse Harrison.
Colin Dexter has turned Oxford into the murder capital of England. He is
quick to tell that he has now murdered nearly 80 people in the city in the last
15 years, including four heads of colleges. It may be that he has decided to put
an end to his reign of terror. Or perhaps he has just decided to give Chief
Inspector Morse a much-needed break and give Inspector Lewis his time in the
limelight. By the end of The Remorseful Day, Lewis has shown himself
to be a worthy successor.
Web site and all contents © Copyright Bev Vincent 2007. All rights reserved.