The Jewel That Was Ours

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Colin Dexter first introduced Chief Inspector Morse to the reading public in LAST BUS TO WOODSTOCK (1975). With each new Morse mystery, the author’s reputation as a skillful crime novelist has increased. The character of Morse is a wonderful creation. He is a middle-aged bachelor who has a penchant for drinking, listening to classical music (especially Richard Wagner), and for doing crossword puzzles. Although he can be irritatingly blunt, Morse is admired by his coworkers for his brilliant—if unorganized—mind. Morse is always the most interesting character in Dexter’s mysteries. In THE JEWEL THAT WAS OURS, Dexter has created a tough case to crack for Morse and his ever-vigilant assistant Sergeant Lewis. Lewis is a family man who is very methodical in his approach to police work. He and Morse complement each other, though there are times when they are at odds as to what course of action would result in a solution to the case.

An elderly female tourist from America is found dead in her room at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford, and a valuable jewel that had been in her possession is found to be missing. The gem was to have been turned over to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. Although it looks as if the woman’s death was due to natural causes, the whereabouts of the jewel remains a mystery. The woman was traveling with her husband as part of an American tour group. When a museum curator turns up murdered, Morse and Lewis set about to sift through seemingly unrelated clues. The inspector must keep on his toes in order to sort out a number of scholarly suspects who are running around Oxford. Morse does find time to have a brief affair with the tour guide, Sheila Williams, who is also one of the suspects. In the end, though, Morse keeps his wits about him and solves the case after many twists and turns.

THE JEWEL THAT WAS OURS is a fine read, and all loyal Morse fans will revel in their hero’s cleverness and irascibility.