Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Riddle of the Third Mile

By Colin Dexter

A body is found in the water. It is only a torso. The head, hands and legs are missing, obviously a ploy to keep the dead man's identity disguised.
Together Inspector Morse and Lewis will unravel the clues that will lead them to their killer. The complicated path they will travel will take them into the past and through the halls of academe and even into the effects of terminal illness on the human psyche. For Morse, much of this path will be familiar, given his relationship with Oxford University, and the reader will learn a bit more about why Morse became a policeman.

As a non-British person, much of this plot was obscure to me, as it rests upon how students and professors are promoted in their university systems. There is talk of greats and vivas and masters other such stuff. I think if I had at least the tiniest bit of a grasp on that subject that the plot would have made more sense to me. Instead it was like trying to understand the arcane practices of some ancient and obscure culture and it just went over my head.
Also, the victim (SPOILER) turns out to be a man who is, if I remember correctly, only briefly mentioned in the first part of the book. If you were reading too fast, you might have missed it.
And further, Morse comes off as a bit of a fat head with his snotty condescension to his assistant, Lewis, and to other "lower class" people he encounters.
So, all in all, the book was a tiny bit of a disappointment but I did quite enjoy the complicated plot despite the obscurity of the victim. A fascinating  construction, and an enjoyable read even though some parts of it were outside my frame of reference.

For another review, see: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/colin-dexter-4/the-riddle-of-the-third-mile/.

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