‘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…
Morse’s Greatest Mystery by 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.
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.
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?
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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!
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?
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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…