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Sergeant Lewis is confused when his boss, Chief Inspector Morse, is unwilling to take on an unsolved murder case. Yvonne Harrison was found bludgeoned to death a year ago, and there have been no serious leads since - until an anonymous phone call suggests that the case needs to be opened. The caller also suggests that the police tail a convict, Harry Repp, about to be released from jail. This all seems exactly the sort of case that Morse would love, but still he refuses to be involved, instead letting Lewis take over. However, every time Lewis uncovers something useful, he finds that Morse is already a step ahead of him. Morse knew the dead woman on a professional basis - or so he claims - but now Lewis begins to suspect his relationship with Yvonne may have been stronger than that. Will they manage to solve the case, either together or separately? And will Morse's health stand up to the rigours of everyday life?
The last in the Morse series, this audio version of The Remorseful Day is read by Kevin Whately, who many will know played Sergeant Lewis in the TV series. He is a good choice to narrate the story, at least because his voice is familiar and many will immediately warm to it. Unfortunately, he isn't the best narrator I've heard, simply because he doesn't really differentiate between the voices. At times, it is hard to work out whether it is Lewis or Morse speaking. He does attempt to make Lewis's North East accent stronger, but it still comes across in Morse's speeches too, which sounds particularly strange to anyone used to hearing John Thaw as Morse. Other voices are also wishy-washy - I particularly dislike his attempt at women's voices - instead of sounding feminine, he just sounds silly. Other narrators, Martin Jarvis and Hugh Fraser particularly spring to mind, manage to make every voice slightly different, and sound feminine when attempting women's voices. It doesn't ruin the story for me, but it does grate a little and stopped the narration from being completely satisfactory.
Although all the Morse books describe the relationship between Lewis and Morse very well, it is rarely looked at in as much depth as this book. Here, the relationship between the two men appears to be as strong as it has ever been. Morse is his usual curmudgeonly self, often taking out his temper on Lewis, but perhaps because they don't work together quite as closely this time, there is less friction and Lewis is actually very glad of his superior's help when he gets it. Certainly, their respect for each other comes through very strongly, to the extent that it is deeply touching at times. Morse is one of the few fictional detectives that doesn't annoy me - despite his rudeness, he is amusing and his threads of consciousness are always fascinating to follow, even though they are occasionally just a bit too convenient. It just feels as though he has much more about him than the dull Dalgleish (P D James), the smug Frost and the irritatingly maverick Rebus.
Outside of Morse and Lewis, it is very hard to come to terms with any of the other characters - not just because Morse and Lewis' relationship seems to be the main focus, but because it is hard to feel anything much for them. The dead woman was highly sexual and had a number of lovers, seemingly not caring about who knew - and of course, she was dead from the beginning of the story. Her husband also had a number of affairs and doesn't seem all that heart-broken about his wife's death. The same goes for the couple's two children. Generally, Colin Dexter would bring these characters to life, but here, they just seemed to fall rather flat - they existed in the story, but were very much in the background. I understand that Dexter wanted to concentrate on his main characters here, but I think most readers require a little bit more work on the suspects - as it is, it is hard to care about what happens to them.
For this reason, this is not my favourite Morse plot. In fact, had it not been for the suggestion that Morse himself could have been involved in the murder, it wouldn't have been a particularly intriguing case at all. There are, as so often happens with Dexter's plots, a lot of red herrings - they are littered throughout the story so prolifically that it becomes quite confusing at times. Then there is the fact that the story jumps around so much. This might not have been such a problem in the printed version of the book, which is presumably divided by chapters and sub-chapters. As an audio book, however, read by one person in more or less the same voice, it does become hard at times to get to grips with just exactly who is being narrated about and how they fit into the story as a whole. The information is there, it just isn't as well laid out as it could have been with a different narrator.
The story is abridged down to just 3 hours of listening time, which means that a fair bit is missed out of the original story. It is also difficult to get to grips with the many names of the people involved. This is possibly because the audio book is abridged - it may well have been clearer in the printed version - but I did struggle to follow the story at times and needed a couple of listens before I had fully got to grips with it. The truth is worth waiting for though - it comes in an interesting format and brings together all the threads of the plot nicely. The ending does feel a little rushed though, which is a shame - of all the Morse books, it is one that could have done with more attention. Abridging books for an audio format is always going to be tricky. If unabridged, they can be easily over 10 hours and are often expensive, so I fully understand the need to abridge them. Unfortunately, it does mean that parts are bound to be rushed, and in this case, I think it could have been abridged much more successfully.
There are a number of flaws with this audio book, both because of the plot and the narration. It is therefore not the best place for newcomers to the series to begin, simply because so much of it concentrates on Morse and Lewis, and isn't going to capture the attention of anyone who is new to the characters. For fans of Morse, it is an absolute must-read/listen, because it does finish off the series and it is a touching portrayal of a much-loved character. Whether you decide to go for the audio book or printed version is a personal choice - obviously the audio book is ideal for listening to while driving or doing something else, but the printed book will provide more detail and will probably be better laid out. Three stars out of five.
The abridged (3 hours) audio book is available from Amazon for £7.99 (for used cassettes) or £11.69 for the CD version. If you want to go for the unabridged version, it goes for £58.69 for a new copy.