Colin Dexter, The Jewel that was Ours
Colin Dexter is the Oxford don of classic crime. Wonderfully entertaining his Morse and Lewis characters are national treasures. A group of American tourist stay at the Randolph Hotel and attend a lecture; thus begins the mystery of the Wolvercote Tongue, or to give the title, “The Jewel that was Ours”.
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Colin Dexter was discovered by the collecting fraternity a few years after the long running Morse television series began in 1987. His first two books, nice fine first editions, were rarely priced at more than £60. The main reason for this was that detective fiction was a specialism and dealers of rarer collectibles stocked only literary fiction, unless of course, their was a demand. After the initial burst energy of a book a year for three years, the pace slackened to a book every other year or every third year. Dexter wrote for fun not for profit. Following the acclaimed series with John Thaw the author of the books was sought out for speaking engagements. It is said that he attended Buckingham Palace to read the Morse books to no less than Her Majesty. He was sought out by a pop music agent to give a presentation on Morse and his writing to a packed theatre. These feats compare in magnitude to the large literary figures of yesteryear such a Oscar Wilde.
The Jewel That Was Ours (1991) is regarded by many as one of the best Morse stories. It began as as an outline that Dexter had written for the television screenplay and has the hallmarks of a classic detective story. An elderly female tourist from America is found dead in her room at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford, and a valuable jewel that had been in her possession is found to be missing. The jewel was to have been turned over to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. Although it looks as if the woman’s death was due to natural causes, the whereabouts of the jewel remains a mystery. The dead woman was an American tourist and the investigation leads to the tour group. When a museum curator turns up murdered, Morse and Lewis set about to sift through seemingly unrelated clues. The inspector must keep on his toes in order to sort out a number of scholarly suspects who are possible culprits.
The author of the Appreciation and the president of the Detection Club, H R F Keating is in his element in perusing the Morse novels, from the Oxford setting, the people that Morse meets, to the construction of the puzzles. He delights in commenting on characters in this novel. It was published as a signed limited edition of 150 copies and 20 specially bound presentation copies. The leather spine was jaguar red.