Christmas ’Tec! Morse’s Greatest Mystery by Colin Dexter

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

 

…and how better to be jolly than by spending time with some of our favourite ‘tecs? Not that you’d really expect grumpy old Morse to be the life and soul of the Christmas party, admittedly, but I wouldn’t mind “accidentally” bumping into Lewis under the mistletoe…

kissing

 

 

Tuesday Tec

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Morse’s Greatest Mystery by Colin Dexter

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Colin Dexter
Colin Dexter

It’s Christmastime in Oxford and Morse intends to spend it decorating, not the tree, but his kitchen.

“You sound more like Scrooge every minute, sir.”

“And I shall read a Dickens novel. I always do over Christmas. Re-read, rather.”

(Suddenly I’m thinking maybe I should check for Morsy under that mistletoe too…)

But before they break for the holiday, the mismatched pair have one more case to solve. Luckily for Morse, the crime took place in a pub, and it just so happens that they’ll arrive there at opening time…

…and it was Lewis’s job that day to ferry the chief inspector around; doubtless, too (if things went to form), to treat him to the odd pint or two.

The day before, the pub landlady had gone to the bank to get £400 in nice crisp new notes – the sum the pub’s patrons had raised to give to Littlemore, a local children’s home. But when she got back to the pub, the phone was ringing. Leaving her bag on the bar, she rushed to answer it and on her return discovered the money had been taken.

At the time of theft, there had been about thirty people in the saloon bar, including the regular OAPs, the usual cohort of pool-playing unemployables, and a pre-Christmas party from a local firm. And – yes! – from the very beginning Lewis had known that the chances of recovering the money were virtually nil.

John Thaw and Kevin Whateley as Morse and Lewis
John Thaw and Kevin Whateley as Morse and Lewis

Oh Lewis! You should have more faith! With a bit of dexterous questioning (hope you enjoyed that pun), Morse learns all he needs to know…

1. The pub landlord was late in getting back from the Cash and Carry.
2. The temporary barman is reluctant to discuss the state of his bank balance.
3. …

He now asked – amazingly! – whether by any chance the good lady [the pub landlady] possessed a pair of bright green, high-heeled leather shoes; and when she replied that, yes, she did, Morse smiled serenely, as though he had solved the secret of the universe…

You now have all the information that Morse had – I hope you’ve solved the case!

To Lewis’s amazement, Morse summons together staff and regulars, announces that he knows whodunit and where the money is now. And astonishingly, he goes on to tell them…

The thief might well have been tempted to spend the money earlier – but not any more! And why not? Because at this Christmas time that person no longer had the power to resist his better self.

Morse tells them that he expects the money to be handed in to the police station marked for Lewis’s attention by the following morning.

And so it was… leaving Morse satisfied and Lewis baffled. Which are you?

* * * * * * *

This is a lovely little story, just right for the Christmas season. It’s only a few pages long, but plenty of time for some humour, a baffling mystery, a couple of nice red herrings, a bit of traditional Morse/Lewis repartee and a smile-inducing solution. Yes, I guessed it just before the end, but that didn’t spoil any of the fun. And any story that references Dickens and Scrooge gets my vote as being full of Christmas spirit!

Patrick Stewart as Scrooge
Patrick Stewart as Scrooge

And it seems that even Morse might have been infected by goodwill too…

And he smiled, for he knew that this would be a Christmas he might enjoy almost as much as the children up at Littlemore, perhaps. He had solved so many mysteries in his life. Was he now, he wondered, beginning to glimpse the solution to the greatest mystery of them all?

* * * * * * *

Little Grey Cells rating: ❓ ❓ ❓ ❓

Overall story rating:      😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

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No link this week since it’s still in copyright, but I read it in this great (and currently ridiculously cheap on Kindle – it’s in the sale) collection of 60 Christmas crime stories by just about everyone you’ve ever heard of…

the big book of christmas mysteries

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

 

47 thoughts on “Christmas ’Tec! Morse’s Greatest Mystery by Colin Dexter

  1. Ha ha ha … i am going to have to get the Big Book of Christmas mysteries now 🙂 In the olden days we used to live in Kiribati (a tiny place in the Pacific). There was no TV there but we’d gone prepared and brought a TV set and video recorder with us – there is only so much to do on a coral atoll ;o) My mum would religiously tape programmes off the TV for us. Every time a packet of tapes arrived from her it was like Christmas. Morse was her favourite and ours. Only problem was somehow or another ever episode always stopped ten minutes before the end, yep, just right before you found out whodunnit. Oh, happy days 😉

    • Haha! Great story! My mum was a devoted fan of Morse and Midsomer Murders, but she always fell asleep halfway through. Then the next time she watched, she’d say “I don’t know why I can never remember who the murderer is…” Sadly, I’m getting to be more and more like her… 😉

  2. I enjoyed watching Inspector Morse on PBS. So this book would be great to have.
    My guess is that the thief stuck the money in the landlady’s shoes to retrieve later. So my guess is the temporary barman is the thief.

  3. What a great little story, FictionFan, isn’t it? And I did enjoy that pun – very much. I always think that Morse and Lewis are one of the best ‘dynamic duos’ in crime fiction. And you know, there are worse things than meeting up with either of them under the mistletoe… 😉

    • It is – just right for the season! I think I’ve only read one of the books, though I watched most of the TV ones. Secretly, I prefer the new series with Lewis and Hathaway – and I wouldn’t at all object to meeting Laurence Fox under the mistletoe… 😉

  4. I am a HUGE Morse fan (probably quite obviously) and I still hold a candle for the late, great John Thaw as the crotchety detective. Quite probably one of my favourite literary characters of all time. A rare case where I loved the TV programme as much as the books. Oh, this post has left me in a tizz of quite some delight, FF.

    • I think I’ve only read one of the books – don’t know why! I did enjoy the old series, but secretly I prefer the new ones with Lewis and Hathaway. I’ve had a major soft spot for Kevin Whately since Peak Practice days, even though he had to compete with the lovely, lovely, lovely Simon Shepherd… *sighs happily*

      • Kevin Whatley is such a sweetheart, I agree. I haven’t seen the new Lewis ones I must say – I felt I would be being disloyal to Morse 😉 Although, I absolutely love Endeavour – the young Morse series. Brilliant, brilliant.

    • Aw, they’re very pleased! (But… a hint! Never try to kiss Tuppence if you prefer your skin unscarred! Kissing Tommy is very sweet though…) Haha! I fear my poor Tommy is more of a Bingley type – sweet but gullible! And Tuppence is Lady Catherine de Bourg…

  5. I’ve just bought this collection: I do like reading Christmas themes in the Christmas season. And any stories not finished this Christmas will still be there next Christmas, as well as favourites to be read again. Thank you FF 🙂

    • Hope you enjoy it! I’ve only read this story so far, but I think the contents list looks great. I’ll probably use a couple more of them in the run up to Christmas, so you can quickly read them and then look as if you managed to solve the mystery… 😉

    • The lovely Hathaway! Didn’t you tell me once that you had a friend who looks like him or something? *stands wistfully under the mistletoe*

      They say thank you! Funnily enough, the three of us were discussing what they should get from Santa – I think they need a new scratching post, but Tommy wants a year’s supply of cat treats. Tuppence wonders why any cat would want to scratch a post when there’s humans around…

      • Yes! I do. Andrew, I think. But I haven’t spoken to him in ages. I do like Hathaway a lot. He’s cool. Get out from under that mistletoe! That whole thing is a myth, see.

        *laughs* I think you might have to think about getting Tuppence some coal…

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