The Wall Street Journal
In short mysteries so brilliantly plotted they'll confound the cleverest of souls, Inspector Morse remains as patient as a cat at a mouse hole in the face of even the most resourceful evildoers. Muldoon, for instance, the one-legged bomber with one fatal weakness . . . the quartet of lovers whose bizarre entanglements Morse deciphers only after a beautiful woman is murdered . . . and those artful dodgers who catch the cunning and very respectful Morse with his pants down. There are mysteries featuring new characters and some familiar ones, including the great Sherlock Holmes, and a royal flush of American crooks.
"BRILLIANT . . . Inspector Morse is back, and more than welcome."
"Fear not. In Dexter's dexterous hands, the short-form Morse is every bit as wily and irascible as he is in the the popular Morse novels and the long-running PBS Mystery! series."
The Raleigh News & Observer
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AS GOOD AS GOLD
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world.
(2 Peter, ch. 1, v. 4)
Admiring friend: “My, that’s a beautiful baby you have there!”
Mother: “Oh, that’s nothing—you should see his photograph.”
Chief Superintendent Strange took back the snapshot of Grandson Number One (two years, three months) and lovingly looked at the lad once more.
“Super little chap. You can leave him with anybody. As good as gold.”
He poured a little more of the Macallan into each of the glasses.
Birthdays were becoming increasingly important for Strange as the years passed by—fewer and ever fewer of them left, alas. And he thought he was enjoying the little early-evening celebration with a few of his fellow senior officers.
Only two of them remaining now, though.
Quite predictably remaining, one of the two.
Musing nostalgically, Strange elaborated on memories of childhood.
“Huh! One of the first things I ever remember as a kid, that. This woman was looking after me when my ol’ mum had to go out somewhere—and when she came back she asked her whether I’d been a good boy while she’d been away and she’d been looking after me—and she said she could leave me with her any time she liked because I’d been as good as gold. Those were the very words—‘As good as gold.’ ”
There was a short silence, before he resumed, briefly.
“I’m not boring you by any chance, Morse?”
The white head across the desk jerked quickly to the vertical and shook itself emphatically. Seven—or was it eight?—“she”s. With one or two “her”s thrown in for good measure? Yet in spite of the bewildering proliferation of those personal pronouns (feminine), Morse had found himself able to follow the story adequately, feeling gently amused as he pictured the (now) grossly overweight Superintendent as a podgy but obviously pious little cherub happily burbling to his baby-sitter.
All a bit nauseating, but …
“Certainly not, sir,” he said.
“You know the origin of the phrase, of course?”
Oh dear. Just a minute …
But Strange was already a furlong ahead of him.
“All to do with the Gold Standard, wasn’t it? If you needed some gold—to buy something, say—well, it was going to be too heavy to cart around all the time—and there probably wasn’t enough in the bank anyway. So they gave you a note instead—a bit o’paper promising to “pay the bearer” and all that sort of thing—and that bit o’ paper was as good as gold. If you took that bit o’ paper to the Bank of England or somewhere, you could bet your bottom dollar—well, not “dollar” perhaps—you know what I mean, though—you could get your gold-bar—if you really wanted it. You could have all the confidence in the world in that bit o’ paper.”
Thank you, Mr. Strange.
Clearly, in terms of frequency, the “bit o’ paper” had usurped the personal pronouns (feminine). But Morse was apparently unconcerned, and nodded his head encouragingly as the bottle, now at a virtually horizontal level, hovered over his empty glass.
“You’re not driving yourself home, Morse, I hope?”
“Certainly not, sir.”
“Little more for you, Crawford?”
Strange turned to the only other person there in the room, seated at the desk beside Morse.
“No more for me, thank you, sir. I shall have to get back to the office.”
“Still some work to do—this time of day?”
“Just a bit, sir.”
“Ah—the Muldoon business! Yes. Going all right?”
Detective Inspector Crawford looked rather less confident than Strange’s putative bearer of the promissory bank-note.
“We’re making progress, sir.”
“Good! Fine piece of work that, Crawford. Aggregation, accumulation of evidence—that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? I know we’ve got a few smart alecs like Morse here who—you know, with all that top-of-the head stuff … but real police work’s just honest graft, isn’t it? And I mean honest. We’re winning back a lot of public support, that’s for sure. We’ve taken a few knocks recently, course we have. Bad apples—one or two in every barrel; in every profession. Not here though! Not in our patch, eh, Morse?”
“Certainly not, sir.”
“Above suspicion—that’s what we’ve got to be. Compromise on the slightest thing and you’re on the slope, aren’t you—on the slippery slope down to …”
Strange gulped back a last mouthful of Malt—clearly the name to be found at the bottom of the said slope temporarily eluding him. It was time to be off home. Almost.
“No, you can’t afford to start on that.”
“Certainly not,” agreed Morse with conviction, happily unaware that he was becoming almost as repetitive as Strange.
“It’s just like Caesar’s wife, isn’t it? ‘Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.’ You’ll remember that, Morse. You were a Classics man.”
“What was her name?” asked Strange.
Oh dear. Just a minute …
Morse dredged his memory—unproductively. What was her name? She’d been accused (he remembered) of some extra-marital escapade, and Caesar had divorced her on the spot; not because he thought she was necessarily guilty, but because he couldn’t afford to have a wife even suspected of double-dealing. Well, that’s what Caesar said … Like as not he was probably just fed up with her; had some woman on the side himself … What was her name?
“Pomponia,” supplied Crawford.
Mentally Morse kicked himself. Of course it was.
“You all right, Morse?” Strange looked anxiously over his half spectacles, like a schoolmaster disappointed in a star pupil. “Not had too much booze, have you?”
“Certainly not, sir.”
“You know,” Strange sat back expansively in his chair, fingers laced over his great paunch, “you’re a couple of good men, really. I know you may have cut a few corners here and there—by-passed a few procedures. Huh! But we’ve none of us ever lost sight of what it’s really all about, have we? The Police Force? Integrity, fairness … honesty …”—then, after a deep breath, an impressive heptasyllabic finale—“incorruptibility.”
The Super had sounded fully sober now, and had spoken with a quiet, impressive dignity.
He rose to his feet.
And his fellow officers did the same.
In the corridor outside, as they walked away from Strange’s office, Crawford was clearly agitated.
“Can I speak to you, Morse? It’s very urgent.”