(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Colin Dexter’s major accomplishment was his creation of the unforgettable Inspector Morse. The novels of the Morse series have made Dexter an important and influential figure in modern English detective fiction. In a poll, Dexter’s fellow mystery writers chose Morse as their favorite male sleuth, ahead of Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, Nero Wolfe, and Adam Dalgliesh. Others have compared Dexter to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler because he has written not only good detective stories but also high-quality literature. The novels of the Morse series have brought Dexter fame, fortune, and fans around the world, some of whom travel to Oxford to meet him and to relive their favorite scenes from the novels. The Crime Writers’ Association has awarded him its Silver Dagger Award twice (1979 and 1981) and its Gold Dagger Award twice (1989 and 1992). He has also received this organization’s Cartier Diamond Dagger for outstanding services to crime fiction.

Morse made his first appearance in Last Bus to Woodstock (1975), a novel that introduced several of Dexter’s principal techniques and themes, such as insightfully choosing epigraphs relevant to each chapter’s subject and mood. Readers also encounter the theme of Morse’s fallibility, because he often misidentifies the murderer in the early stages of his investigations. Dexter also uses Morse’s companion, Sergeant Lewis, to update this relationship between detective and associate that...

(The entire section is 466 words.)