THE CEREBRAL DETECTIVE
On August 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

Ten Times I beg, dear Heart, let’s Wed!                                                                                

(Thereafter long may Cupid reigne)                                                                                                

Let’s tread the Aisle, where thou hast led                                                                                    

The fifteen Bridesmaides in thy Traine.                                                                                      

Then spend our honeyed Moon a-bed,                                                                                      

With Springs that creake againe—againe!

—John Wilmot, 1672

The above “naughty” poem appears on a postcard in Colin Dexter‘s Death Is Now My Neighbor. Not only does Dexter’s protagonist Detective Inspector E. Morse know that purported author John Wilmot was the Earl of Rochester and court poet to Charles II,  Morse also knows that in fact the poem is fake and Wilmot is not the author. The giveaway might be those creaking springs!

Morse lives in Oxford, England. Like his creator, he enjoys a good dark ale, opera, poetry, art, classics, classic cars, and cryptic crossword puzzles. Morse is somewhat grumpy, distracting us from his spectacular memory and remarkable ability to notice important clues in the course of a murder mystery. He has a distinct aversion to blood and dead bodies, which make him queasy. In fact, a quick glance at the victim lying in a pool of blood is about all he can take, and he certainly will not attend an autopsy.

Inspector Morse and junior partner Lewis

Like other detectives who are complicated and interesting, Morse has been portrayed on TV. As a middle-class Englishman, Morse is well aware of the class differences between him and his working class partner Detective Sergeant Lewis, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of a collaborative relationship.  Such class differences are seen particularly in English detective novels, another example being Elizabeth George‘s Inspector Lynley series (although George is American.)

Dexter’s novels are complex. He makes use of the third person omniscient point of view and in that manner introduces multiple characters that initially may seem unconnected, or at least unclearly connected. Dexter’s (and Morse’s) genius is to show how the movements and lives of these characters eventually tie together, and how they solve the mystery. Red herrings abound in the Morse novels, so watch for clues that Dexter cleverly plants. Sometimes the text is dense with academic references and language flourishes befitting the Oxford environment, and the style or substance may not suit some readers. However I can tell you that as I came toward the end of an Inspector Morse novel, the moment he realized who the killer was, my own hairs stood on end. Dexter is unquestionably a master at tying up apparently randomly thrown strings into a neat bundle.

The Morse TV series had two spinoffs: one a sequel, Inspector Lewis, set in more contemporary times; the other a prequel, EndeavourThat’s what the initial in Morse’s name stands for.       

To test your own cerebral wits and be eligible to win a beautiful, author-signed box set of the Inspector Darko Dawson series including the fourth novel Gold of Our Fathers due out in Spring 2016, choose the best single answer to the following question:

Livor mortis, a term in forensic pathology, is

A. A distinct cherry red color seen in the liver of a murder victim several hours after death.

B. Rigidity of the body after death.

C. Unlikely to occur in outer space.

D. The blanching of the skin in a murder victim found lying in the prone position.

E. Most pronounced in dark-skinned individuals.

 

Or if that makes you a little queasy and you’d like to try your hand at something a little less graphic,  solve the following puzzle:

Two Los Angeles cops, Eddie and Joe, are taking a break at a Dunkin’ Donuts while watching traffic and pedestrians go by. They spot a young woman on the other side of the street waiting to cross. She’s wearing a hat, a sleeveless coral chiffon blouse, a black skirt, and scarlet stiletto heels. Her hair is black and flows past her shoulders. Her fine gold necklace glints in the sunlight as she hurries across the street. Because she did this between two adjacent intersections that both have traffic lights, she has committed “jaywalking,” a violation of the California Vehicle Code.

“If you weren’t so busy munching on that strawberry-filled donut,” Joe says to Eddie, “would  you go out and give her a ticket?”

“Well, maybe I’d give her a break if she was from out of state,” Eddie replies.

“I can tell you right now that she’s not only from out of state,” Joe declares, “she’s from another country.”

“Why do you say that?” Eddie asks. “Do you know the lady?”

“Never seen her before in my life,” Joe says, “but I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s recently arrived from Australia or the UK.”

What did Joe notice that makes him so sure?

Reply to [email protected]

The winner will be chosen at random from a pool of those who answered correctly.

Answer either the multiple-choice question or the puzzle, not both. Doing so will disqualify you.