Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter

She was called the Swedish Maiden by the officers investigating her disappearance. She was a young, attractive Swedish Girl who went missing twelve months ago near Wytham Woods in Oxford, England. Now, the case has got a renewed interest with the appearance of Cryptic verses which someone has sent to the Police. The Police take the help of the general public in cracking the puzzle. The Police get an overwhelming response from the public who give them different solutions to the puzzle.

Meanwhile Inspector Morse is summoned from his holiday to take over the case which has seen no success in the last one year. Morse and his faithful Sargent Lewis hit gold immediately. They discover human remains in the Woods. Trouble is that the remains are of a male and the elusive Swedish Maiden is still at large. Morse and Lewis investigate a case of Sex, Lies and Photographs.


By far the most viewed post on my blog has been Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter, and since I gave it 3 stars out of 5, I decided to give Inspector Morse another try. So how did the supposedly best book in the series fare?

not good. I would say just above average, I'll enunciate.

The problem with The Way through the Woods is that the mystery takes a backseat and the emotions and lives of the characters become the main plot. I like my mysteries to be dominated by the actual mystery itself and the emotions and the lives of the characters can be the sub plot. There is way too much time spent on discussing the private lives and inner turmoils of all the characters involved and that just keeps on shifting the focus from the mystery.

Also what is up with Morse, he seems to attract a myriad of women wherever he goes. I think Morse has flirted with about a dozen women in the two Morse books that I have read. What this does is that it annoys you because it keeps on protracting the book and in the end you get a 400+ page novel.

Dexter has based his novel in Oxford and describes the topography neatly and meticulously. he takes the reader through Wytham woods and has even put a map of the same in the book. Dexter has divided the book in sixty odd small chapters, which makes reading this one easier. Also, at the beginning of each chapter there is a quote which is like a preamble to the chapter (what I mean is that the quote was in context with the chapter). I liked the quotes a lot couple of my favorites were:

What is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit to do the unnecessary. -Richard Harkness

This is the reason why mothers are more devoted to their children than fathers: it is that they suffer more in giving them birth and are more certain that they are their own. -  Aristotle

The mystery in this book is better then the Last bus to Woodstock but whereas the identity of the murderer left me stumped in Woodstock, in the Way through the Woods the identity is easy to figure out.
The puzzle in the book is ingenious and the some of the cracks that people take at the puzzle are superlative.
The writing in the first half is very good but kinda drags in the second half. I would have liked to see a bit more cognitive experiences to provoke jocularity.

Hardcore mystery lovers like that of Christie and Carr won't like this too much but fans of Dorothy Sayers would enjoy this a lot. There are a few references to the mysteries of the past in the book. But for the Cozy mystery lover the book has too much sex and alcohol. Dexter even tries  to titillate the reader a few times. 3 out of 5 for Morse and Dexter. The cover is a tad bit better this time.

Submitting this as part of the BBC as the book is based in Oxford.


  1. It's interesting how the mysteries of writers like Dexter, Reginald Hill, PD James, Ruth Rendell, got longer and longer over the years--not always to advantage I think.

    1. hey there,

      you are so right. its true with the great ones as well like Queen, Christie and Carr.


Featured Post

The Menagerie And Other Byomkesh Bakshi Mysteries by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay

A few weeks ago I did the review of  Picture Imperfect and other Byomkesh Bakshi Mysteries by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay  as part of the Glob...