Colin Dexter: The Wench is Dead

The Wench Is Dead - Colin Dexter, Samuel  West

24 Festive Tasks: Door 21 – Kwanzaa, Task 2:

In Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, the “Finis Africae” is the hidden center of the labyrinth which constitutes the monastery’s library, protected by a number of intricate, misdirecting devices.  Tell us: Where have you recently encountered clever misdirection or a labyrinthine plot in a book?

Obviously, Agatha Christie is still the reigning queen of misdirection in a mystery, but for this task I’m going to go with Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series, which I am bit by bit revisiting at the moment, courtesy of the splendid audio versions narrated by Samuel West. The solutions of Dexter’s books frequently depend on anagrams, crossword-style clues and similar instances of lateral and “six degrees of separation” thinking (the protagonist isn’t named Morse for nothing), all which he tends to employ to great effect — not least since before you’ve cottoned on to the particular sleight of hand he is using at any given time, the plot still seems to make sense to you and you might well think you’re on to quite a different solution.

The Wench is Dead has always been one of my favorite books by Dexter, not least because it also contains a bit of historical fiction writing (of sorts) and a story within a story — in essence, it’s Dexter’s bow to Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair.

 

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