The Wench Is Dead Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Wench Is Dead

The eighth of Dexter's Inspector Morse series finds Morse recovering from a bleeding ulcer in Oxford's Radcliffe Hospital. Reading to stave off boredom, he runs across the tale of a murder case that took place (and was ostensibly solved) more than a century before. The body of a young woman was found drowned in the Oxford Canal in 1859, and two men eventually hanged for the murder. Increasingly convinced the men were innocent, Morse must prevail on others -- not only his indefatigable assistant Sergeant Lewis but Christine Greenaway, a comely librarian who regularly visits a relative in the hospital -- to help him research this crime for which all the principals are long gone. Witty, cosmopolitan, and erudite but quite readable.
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The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus

Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse series is certainly one of the best out of Britain (or
anywhere else, actually) and for Morse fans, “The Wench Is Dead” is a different twist for
the usually predictable plot lines for Dexter and Morse. Morse is hospitalized (ulcers, no
less--and who is surprised as the good inspector doesn't hesitate to show his appreciation
for good ale and Scotch!) and naturally becomes bored (He can only do so many Times
crosswords at a time!). He is given “Murder on the Oxford Canal”--a story of a young
woman who was found drowned in 1859. Her assailants were arrested, tried, and hanged,
but to Morse, something is amiss. Something just doesn't add up. So, from his hospital
bed, he begins a unique investigation of his own--to prove that the wrong men were
hanged! The persistence he and his assistants show makes a gripping narrative itself. To
say it is compelling reading is an understatement; this is Colin Dexter (and Inspector
Morse) at their best. (Need I add that Morse proves his theories correct--for all the good it
did the originally convicted men, of course!)
The review of this Book prepared by Bill Hobbs

Chapter Analysis of The Wench Is Dead

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Plot & Themes

Tone of story    -   Dry-cynical How difficult to spot villain?    -   Difficult, but some clues given    -   Challenging Time/era of story:    -   1980's-1999 What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   60%    -   nearly 100% Special suspect?    -   chronically deranged person Kind of investigator    -   police procedural, American    -   british mystery (I say!) Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Water adventure    -   Yes Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   government investigator    -   police/lawman Age:    -   40's-50's    -   60's-90's


Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK Small town?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment    -   moderately detailed references to deaths Explicit sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references Unusual forms of death    -   drowned Unusual form of death?    -   Yes Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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