Ding dong, the . . . A well-written, well-read, well-plotted, low-key mystery is just the blah-banishing ticket for dog-day relief. It may be hot out, but Colin Dexter and Inspector Morse, his clever, clear-eyed, crime-solving creation, keep their cool in The Wench Is Dead. Morse, in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer, becomes engrossed in a treatise about a murder/rape case that took place over a hundred years ago on the Oxford Canal. Pleased at this reprieve from his bedridden boredom, Morse stops ogling the pretty young nurses and starts putting his well-honed detective skills to work, soon discovering that the well-intentioned author, as well as the well-intentioned prosecutors of the crime, missed and misinterpreted vital evidence. Determined to set things right, even though the accusers, victims, and perpetrators are all long gone, Morse gets on the case in this classy crime novel, read in perfectly pitched, classy cadences by the author.

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