Summer reading: 2 whodunnits

POSTED: July 30, 2019

In the last forty eight hours I have read two novels at the rate of one a day.

The Violent Ward

I began by rereading Len Deighton’s The Violent Ward, which proved very different from how I remembered it. It takes the form of a whodunnit with an overlaying of wacky comedy, in a style not unlike some of Donald Westlake’s novels.

It has an intricate plot and the final twists do not jump the shark, insofar as they seem in keeping with the characters and the rest of the story.

Last Bus to Woodstock

I then read the first Inspector Morse novel, Last Bus to Woodstock which has a final explanation so preposterous that only its general air of dullness prevented me laughing out loud.

The police imagine that they have discovered a vicious rape and search for a sex killer, while it will later turn out that three separate events happened in rapid succession in a manner so illogical that Morse can only solve it all by “intuition”, or “making a series of random guesses” if you want to get technical.

Hmm, let me see.

A man and a young woman he has never met before have spontaneous wild sex in the back of his car in a dark pub car park. Unknown to them, his wife has arrived and sees this. Unbeknown to all of them the man’s mistress has hidden in another corner of the dark car park to watch, and angrily kills the young woman (with whom she works) after the wife and man have driven off separately. Finally the dead girl’s boyfriend (who has spent the evening in the bar waiting for her) staggers out of the pub drunk, after everyone else has gone, and rearranges the dead girl’s clothing because “he feasted on a weekly diet of blue films and pornography” and “often had a dream of undressing the body of a dead girl”.

I might add that the story arrives at this point via a large number of equally improbable and unlikely events. These include but, as they say, “are not limited to”, the fact that the man in the car communicates with his mistress in a bewildering code that Morse solves without prompting by posting coded letters to another work mate of hers who then hands them on.

She becomes an obvious suspect who then acts suspiciously for reasons best described as an unholy amalgam of red herrings.