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The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn by Colin…

The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977)

by Colin Dexter

Series: Morse (3)

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Re-reading the Morse books in order, the reader is conscious of a definite datedness not only to the style, but to the portrayal of the characters of both Morse and his long-suffering foil, Sergeant Lewis. It is odd to think that these books were the genesis of the popular ITV series and all that has come after it. Despite, for example, the jackets of these American editions (republished at the end of the 80s to coincide with the original broadcasts of the John Thaw / Kevin Whately adaptions show on PBS "Mystery!") proclaiming Morse's fondness for T.S. Eliot and classical music, very little of either are evident in the first three books (and as far as I recall, Eliot never gets a mention, making him as a choice of poets somewhat odd - too modern for Morse's taste?).

So the books are different from the television adaptations. What is the same is that Morse is a difficult character to like, yet he often, through the sympathetic views of others, is made to feel likable. While these three books are very definitely products of the 1970s, the broadcast series from the 1980s has a particular light, a particular sense of Oxford that the books simply don't convey. Less of the dreaming spires, more of the grotty estates and vulgar motorways. It is as though Dexter took Oxford as read (which no doubt he did), but forgot that the reader might live further afield than Abingdon.

If you come to Nicholas Quinn's untimely demise via the television series, you will find the details changed, somewhat. Some extraneous and seemingly unnecessary red herrings in the book were excised from the filmed version, and the narrative considerably tightened up. My favourite line in the programme, "...Americans... they spell "honour" "h-o-n-o-r"," spoken by the head of the Syndicate, is sadly absent, but some of the dialogue is almost word-for-word identical to the transmitted version. Several men are described as "bearded", a vile fashion of the time which has regrettably resurged. Oh, and the film showing at the theatre has been changed, to the apparently fictive "Nymphomanic". Dexter's imagination seems somewhat more salacious, perhaps as a product of the time?

Reading through the first books, it occurs to me that I haven't really *enjoyed* any of the first three thus far. It has been something that I've read more as a student, in an almost archaeological search for the difference between printed and filmed versions. That isn't to say that as books they're not worth reading, but they perhaps demonstrate how high the standard of the broadcast programme really was. If you can empty your mind of the baggage of Thaw's characterization (and excellent baggage it is), you may enjoy these books somewhat more, but I cannot see anyone being genuinely entranced by them. ( )
  Bill_Bibliomane | May 25, 2015 |
My favorite of the three Morse books. On the whole, I really like the series. Morse comes across as a real person, making mistakes in deductions, jumping to conclusions, and so forth. The plots are pretty convoluted, but these are not the kind of mystery novels where the reader tries to figure it out before Morse. These are about how Morse goes about it, and about the characters involved.

I will definitely read more of the Inspector in the future. ( )
  Hanneri | Dec 8, 2014 |
The plot is overly complex.
  danhammang | Nov 7, 2014 |
Early and not as finely crafted as later Morses but still a highly enjoyable read. The younger Morse is more coarse and less of the enigmatically attractive to women but more of the chaser. Here, I also felt like the murder was never really well solved, and the epilouge didn't make me sure of it.
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
I know a lot of people read mysteries to see if they can figure out whodunnit. I never have; I read them if I enjoy the writing and the characters, and the mystery kind of just happens. Given that, the thing I particularly enjoy about Morse books, and this one in particular, is basically feeling like I'm in the same boat as Lewis. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Feb 26, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0330254243, Paperback)

Chief Inspector Morse is called in to investigate the murder of an Oxford academic, and finds the dons in uproar. The code of integrity had been breached and Quinn's death was not a matter of how and why but when.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:14 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Murdered in his North Oxford home, newly appointed member of the Oxford Examinations Syndicate, Nicholas Quinn was deaf, provincial and gifted. As Morse investigates the death he is drawn into a labyrinth world of the Oxford colleges. Originally published: London: Macmillan, 1977.… (more)

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Average: (3.66)
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