06 March 2008

Book Review: The Daughters of Cain by Colin Dexter

The Daughters of Cain Morse isn’t happy at the prospect of taking over someone else’s case; but when it turns out that the previous detective’s wife really was dying, he doesn’t have much choice. So he and Lewis begin their belated investigation into the murder of Wesley College’s Ancient History Tutor, Dr. Felix McClure. In the absence of witnesses or a weapon, the only thing to go on is motive, and there’s no shortage of that. An undergraduate who committed suicide, drug-taking amongst his students, the call girl he was seeing - any one of them could have inspired a knife to the gut.

Across town, a schoolteacher is keeping a secret, and her cleaning lady is in trouble. They have nothing to do with the case - until the second body turns up, that of someone with more than one connection to the late Dr. McClure. Whether the two murders have anything directly to do with each other remains to be seen, but Morse thinks that they do. Or is that just what a very clever killer wants him to believe?

After being reminded of Morse by The Daughter of Time, it seemed natural to read this next. It wasn’t quite able to knock The Wench is Dead from its position as the favourite of the Morse books I’ve read, but it did come close. At first the mystery was threefold - what were Julia and Brenda up to, who killed Felix, and how would the two plots merge into one? When they did so, they became more baffling ... and then I managed to arrive at a few points ahead even of Morse, and was left waiting impatiently for the characters to catch up. But the book redeemed itself when I discovered that police and reader alike were being led up the garden path; and then I could only marvel at the sheer deviousness of the plot. (And try, and fail, to solve the cryptic crossword clue that stumped Morse.)

Rating: B+

1 comment:

Heather said...

ooooooo this one sounds very good!

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776