Friday, December 24, 2010

The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (Macmillan, 1977).

The third Inspector Morse novel has an interesting feel to it which reminds me more of PD James' Dalgliesh series than the first two in this series. In the earlier novels, Morse seems assigned to fairly basic, mundane, non-exploitative cases, and for the most part the reader follows the investigation from his perspective, meeting all the participants as he does.

This time out, however, Colin Dexter crafted a very James-like scenario of a particular, somewhat isolated business that keeps to itself and doesn't court publicity. It's a syndicate in Oxford that proctors exams for foreign nationals, and the newest member of the faculty, a deaf man named Nicholas Quinn, has stumbled on something scandalous, and while Morse figures that he learned something that killed him, he's baffled not only as to what, but when the man was killed.

Most of the book is pretty interesting, but one ongoing facet of the investigation really got my attention. Like the previous book, Last Seen Wearing, there's a really weird emphasis on pornography, particularly the scurrilous, hide-your-face 1970s British variety. This time out, it appears that most of the faculty made regular visits to a porn cinema in town, and the couple hiding an office romance would go there and... you know, I'd like to think I have an open mind towards erotica, but I'm telling you, Dexter makes this subject sound really shamefully skeevy. Recommended for older readers.

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