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Last Bus to Woodstock - Colin Dexter

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      24.02.2013 10:58
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      Good classic mystery

      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      The body of a young lady is discovered in the Car Park at the Black Prince in Woodstock late in the night. The dead woman is quickly identified as very attractive Sylvia Kaye, she died from a blow to the head having been sexually assaulted.

      This brought together for the first time Inspector Morse and his new Sergeant Lewis, who quickly try and find out all about the dead woman and what she was doing in the pub car park. A witness remembers the dead girl standing at the bus stop with a girl friend wanting for the bus. However the girls as Morse soon discovers never got on the bus and decided to hitch hike instead. However there is no sign of Sylvia's friend coming forward. What happened to her? And no one comes forward to advise the Police they picked the women up. Why?

      ==My thoughts on the novel:==

      I found this an enjoyable piece of crime fiction. For me it was very interesting to read the very first in the inspector Morse series because I have over the years loved the television series that followed the books. It was good I thought to see where the Morse/Lewis relationship began and I must admit I was very curious to see how they compared with the more familiar television series. My big concern that after John Thaw's excellent representation of Inspector Morse I was likely to be disappointment but I'm glad to say I was not at all.

      Colin Dexter has become practically a household name because of this series of stories. My opinion is without the television series this would never of happened. That is because the lead character John Thaw really made the character his own and even when I was reading the story I could picture him mulling over the problem. The author though only wrote 13 novels of which this is the first one and it was first published in 1975. Colin received many awards for his works including in 1997 a presentation with the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for outstanding services to crime literature.

      I always think that books are better than television programs and if that was going to be the case in this situation it would have to be an excellent read indeed. And while I did enjoy this book I have to say for once I preferred the television series more. I do think a lot of this is because of the wonderful acting of the late John Thaw as I could not read a line of this book without picturing him on the case. Which is also a compliment to the writers ability to set the scene for me to be able to visualise the scene so clearly, I just couldn't imagine any one else playing Morse.

      I found this book quite by accident at a jumble sale recently. I was just browsing when I came across it and knew immediately I had to purchase it and it just 30p I knew I couldn't go far wrong. I was immediately drawn to the title of the book and I thought it was a good one. So I flipped the book over to see the summary of the story. However I thought this was very disappointing and talked more about Morse and his mannerisms than it did tell the reader about the story and I feel the author missed a trick here as it was a good story too.

      The story began with a prelude which was a good way to start. That is because it created almost immediately a sense of mystery about these two young ladies. It was clear there was something not quite right about either them or the situation they were in. It was just a shame it was quite short as I thought the writer could have expanded this without giving any more away and in so doing created more mystery about them.

      I found the story very easy to read and very quickly I was engrossed in it. It had a good feel to it and because I was reading what I would call Intelligent crime I knew it was important for me to think and consider all the facts as Morse was to do. The story moved well although leads where hard to find and the two Detectives had their work cut out to try and piece together the truth. In a story that was full of unexpected twists and lies.

      The only negative I really found and it is difficult problem to solve is that the story had a very dated feel about it. Hardly surprising when you consider this was written in the mid 1970's!! I think it was really brought home to me because of the technology or the lack of it. As it was a time when letters where the main form of communication and the typewriter was still key to most peoples lives and many people used them. Added to the fact people still thought hitch hiking was safe and everything was far far cheaper. It just seemed to me a very different world.

      However what impressed me about the story was I thought I would at least keep pace with Morse and understand by following him what he was thinking and who the guilty party was. That was not the case at all and like Lewis I could only admire his intelligence as he left me still standing at the bus stop, I didn't have a clue and when the answer was revealed I don't think I have ever been so surprised. Luckily for me and Lewis it was all explained by Morse and it made perfect sense.

      What really came through loud and clear with this story was the authors knowledge and love of Oxford. I always think the best writers write from the heart about places they are familiar with and through Dexter's excellent words this is evident. It was a very good and enjoyable story and one that always had me more than involved in it, not perhaps a page turner but I think that was because Morse was that far ahead of me.

      Clearly Morse is the stories main character. I found him a fascinating character and I like to think I would have regardless of having seen him on the television. Although at times his moody and independent ways made him appear more of a maverick than I remembered. An intelligent man who uses his brain to solve the case and solve the puzzle. What I found particularly enjoyable was the focus on his private life as I always like to know what the investigating officers are dealing with in their lives. Although I still find it strange he never used his first name and was just known to everyone as Morse. In this story I enjoyed particularly his relationship with Lewis as in later stories they become good friends in this one he was just learning what it was like to work with him. And at times he certainly found him very difficult and frustrating man to understand and work with.

      One feature that I found helpful that I haven't mentioned thus far is the chapters. Yes these happened at logical times and successfully broke the story up into managed parts but also the date was always shown. So that you knew it was a new day without having to be told or even to guess how much time had elapsed. The stories length was exactly right to tell what was a fascinating story and it also had an epilogue just to round it all off perfectly although again this was very short.

      I have to say I am very pleased I read this first in the series story introducing Inspector Morse. It certainly exceeded my expectations as I just thought the book would disappoint me compared with the television series. As a result now I am keen to find and read further stories in this series. Basically because this one was superbly well written story that really impressed me with the intellect of Morse. I just wish I was half as clever as him!!

      ==Conclusion:==

      I would recommend this as a wonderful piece of crime fiction. Through the authors words I found I could still picture John Thaw playing the lead role. It was a very good story full of mystery which seemed at times to be going no where and yet the lead character was able to solve it. The only issue I found was the story did have a somewhat dated feel about it, but that did not stop me enjoying it at all.

      ==Other Information:==

      Paperback version:
      Pages: 320
      Price 5.29 New at Amazon
      Publisher: Pan Publishing
      ISBN-10: 0330451189
      ISBN-13: 978-0330451185
      First Published: 1975

      Thanks for reading my review.

      This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.

      © CPTDANIELS February 2013.

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