Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/3984
What is in a Mystery? A Closer Look at the Inspector Morse Mysteries by Colin Dexter
This essay reflects upon the uses of narratology to analyze the genre of the detective novel, and in turn the subgenre of the police procedural novel, the detective genre being an object most suitable for narratological analysis through the genre’s emphasis on how the story is written. This analysis applies central terms to two of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse mysteries, his first mystery, Last Bus to Woodstock (1975) and his sixth, The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983), these two novels being chosen for their common thread of Lonsdale College, as well as for their similarities and differences in style. The Morse series, being both popular and interesting, whether on paper or on television, make for an excellent example for narratological analysis through the novels’ accessibility.
By delving into Gérard Genette’s concepts of narratology — order, duration, frequency, mood, and voice — and making use of examples from the aforementioned novels it is possible to demonstrate important inner workings of detective fiction. These inner workings are, in turn, what makes a story entertaining and fills it with suspense, and, when done successfully, draw the reader back for more. It is further established how important the relationship between author and reader is to the writer of a detective novel. While the author is the one writing the story, he must bear in mind the rules for writing a work of detective fiction. These rules are made up of what the reader wants to get out of reading a detective novel. With the Inspector Morse novels being a rather reader-friendly series it ascertains the talent of Colin Dexter as a mystery novelist. The character of Inspector Morse is finally defined, showing him to have some rather remarkable traits only the greatest of all fictional detectives share.