Title: The Riddle of the Third Mile (Inspector Morse #6)
Author: Colin Dexter
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction
Format: Kindle, 276 pages
My Rating: 3/5 stars
Summary (from Goodreads):
Inspector Morse isn’t sure what to make of the truncated body found dumped in the Oxford Canal. He suspects it may be all that’s left of an elderly Oxford don last seen boarding a London train days before.
Long story short, I brought my mum the box-set of Inspector Morse about six years ago for a birthday or Christmas (none of us remember which) and being stuck in the house has forced us to sit down and actually watch them.
To my immense surprise (not sure why, seeing as I love Agatha Christie) I’m actually enjoying the series, so much so that I’ve persuaded the parents that we’re going to watch Lewis when we’re done.
(I have also fallen in love with Lewis, but that’s neither here nor there.)
I discovered also that there is a book series! Thirteen of them, written by Colin Dexter – I didn’t start at number one, seeing as I’d already seen the episode Last Bus to Woodstock. This book (number six) seemed like a safe bet, seeing as I didn’t recognise the title, but it turns out I had in fact seen the episode based on the book, and, well –
It’s barely the same story.
I’m baffled by how different the book is. Seeing as this is a book review, I’ll try not to go on about the show too much, so here we go:
The Riddle of the Third Mile is quite possibly the most confusing murder mystery book I have ever read. And not necessarily in a good way. By the end of it, we have five bodies, all linked by the thinnest of threads, and it takes the good Inspector three cups of coffee (acquired by Lewis) to explain everything in clear terms over the last act of the book.
I use ‘clear terms’ as a loose description, because I’m still a bit baffled as to what the hell that ending was supposed to be.
The progression of the case is slow, which is fine, but this book suffers for its poor plotting. There are good mysteries, with twists and turns, and then there are over-complicated mysteries that dump the reader into a writhing sea of confusion and I am sad to report that this novel falls into the latter category.
Unfortunately, I was not particularly enamoured with the main character, which may have saved this read. Morse is, admittedly, an intelligent man – though, his letter-solving abilities are almost as impressive as his affinity for booze and sex. I can’t say I’m sold on his character quite yet, at least not from this book – he’s still too leery for my tastes, which isn’t helped along by the fact that the first chunk of this book takes place in, essentially, a brothel.
Lewis, on the other hand, I love. I mean, I am absolutely, 100% biased because of the show and I will freely admit that. That being said, he doesn’t get a great deal of character in this novel, if I’m being totally honest. Besides Morse essentially saying “Lewis is the only person I will tolerate” and listing a few of his good qualities, the sergeant takes a back seat for most of the book
which is a damn shame.
Another character that I half forgot was in the first couple of seasons of the show is Max, the pathologist, and oh LORD. His banter with Morse is hysterical every time they talk. To be fair, it’s barely banter, more like Max just winding Morse up about whatever the issue with the body is. It’s good to see a character who doesn’t just blindly adore the detective, who is willing to turn around and tell him to shove off until results are ready.
(That being said, I still find it hilarious that he’s willing to take a guess at the time of death specifically because Lewis asks.)
I guess the saving grace of this book is its humour – each chapter has a little summary of what happens within, like so
In which we have a tantalizing glimpse of high-class harlotry.
The necrophobic Morse reluctantly surveys a corpse, and converses with a cynical and ageing police surgeon.
I don’t know what it is about them, but these two lines in particular had me chuckling. Plotting and somewhat flat characterisation aside, the humour alone makes the book at least a somewhat enjoyable read.
Here’s the hoping that the next book is a little less convoluted! Since I have no impulse control and bought it! Huzzah!
Hope everyone’s doing well and keeping safe – any ideas on other books like this? Maybe with a more Agatha Christie-ish vibe?
Lots of love,