Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon.
The Classic British Detective Series.
What is the Inspector Morse series about?
Detective Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse is the main protagonist of the classic crime series written by the English author Colin Dexter (1930-2017) that first appeared in 1975 in the novel “Last Bus to Woodstock.”
Morse is an officer with the Thames Valley Police in Oxford—in England, obviously. He is considered to be a gentleman detective with a working-class background. He is working with his Welsh (and younger) assistant, Lewis.
A crossword addict with a dislike for grammatical and spelling errors, Morse is a highly intelligent man with a great intuition and a fantastic memory, tools he is using to apprehend criminals.
Of course, Inspector Morse is quite famous for the TV show based on the novels. The first series simply titled Inspector Morse (1987–2000) starred John Thaw as Morse and Kevin Whately as Lewis—Lewis got his own spin-off (from 2006 to 2015). All those shows were broadcast on ITV, including the prequel series Endeavour (2012–2023) starring Shaun Evans as a young Morse.
How to read the Inspector Morse Books in Order?
Every book in the Inspector Morse series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- Last Bus to Woodstock (1975) – The death of Sylvia Kaye figured dramatically in Thursday afternoon’s edition of the Oxford Mail. By Friday evening Inspector Morse had informed the nation that the police were looking for a dangerous man – facing charges of wilful murder, sexual assault, and rape. But as the obvious leads fade into twilight and darkness, Morse becomes more and more convinced that passion holds the key…
- Last Seen Wearing (1976) – Morse was beset by a nagging feeling. Most of his fanciful notions about the Taylor girl had evaporated and he had begun to suspect that further investigation into Valerie’s disappearance would involve little more than sober and tedious routine … After leaving home to return to school, teenager Valerie Taylor had completely vanished, and the trail had gone cold. Until two years, three months and two days after Valerie’s disappearance, somebody decides to supply some surprising new evidence for the case…
- The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977) – Morse had never ceased to wonder why, with the staggering advances in medical science, all pronouncements concerning times of death seemed so disconcertingly vague. The newly appointed member of the Oxford Examinations Syndicate was deaf, provincial and gifted. Now he is dead … And his murder, in his north Oxford home, proves to be the start of a formidably labyrinthine case for Chief Inspector Morse, as he tries to track down the killer through the insular and bitchy world of the Oxford Colleges…
- Service of All the Dead (1979) – The sweet countenance of Reason greeted Morse serenely when he woke, and told him that it would be no bad idea to have a quiet look at the problem itself before galloping off to a solution. Chief Inspector Morse was alone among the congregation in suspecting continued unrest in the quiet parish of St Frideswide’s. Most people could still remember the churchwarden’s murder. A few could still recall the murderer’s suicide. Now even the police had closed the case. Until a chance meeting among the tombstones reveals startling new evidence of a conspiracy to deceive…
- The Dead of Jericho (1981) – Anne Scott’s address was scribbled on a crumpled note in the pocket of Morse’s smartest suit. He turned the corner of Canal Street, Jericho, on the afternoon of Wednesday, 3rd October. He hadn’t planned a second visit. But he was back later the same day – as the officer in charge of a suicide investigation…
- The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983) – The thought suddenly occurred to Morse that this would be a marvelous time to murder a few of the doddery old bachelor dons. No wives to worry about their whereabouts; no landladies to whine about the unpaid rents. In fact, nobody would miss most of them at all . . . By the 16th of July the Master of Lonsdale was concerned, but not yet worried. Dr. Browne-Smith had passed through the porter’s lodge at approximately 8.15 a.m. on the morning of Friday, 11th July. And nobody had heard from him since. Plenty of time to disappear, thought Morse. And plenty of time, too, for someone to commit murder . . .
- The Secret of Annexe 3 (1986) – Chief Inspector Morse seldom allowed himself to be caught up in New Year celebrations. So the murder inquiry in the festive hotel had a certain appeal. It was a crime worthy of the season. The corpse was still in a fancy dress. And hardly a single guest at the Haworth had registered under a genuine name . . .
- The Wench Is Dead (1989) – At around 10.15 a.m. on a Saturday morning in 1989 the body of Chief Inspector Morse – though very much alive – was removed to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital. Treatment for a perforated ulcer was later pronounced successful. As Morse begins his recovery he comes across an account of the investigation and the trial that followed Joanna Franks’ death . . . and becomes convinced that the two men hanged for her murder were innocent . . .
- The Jewel That Was Ours (1991) – For Oxford, the arrival of twenty-seven American tourists is nothing out of the ordinary . . . until one of their numbers is found dead in Room 310 at the Randolph Hotel. It looks like a sudden – and tragic – accident. Only Chief Inspector Morse appears not to overlook the simultaneous theft of a jewel-encrusted antique from the victim’s handbag . . . Then, two days later, a naked and battered corpse is dragged from the River Cherwell. A coincidence? Maybe. But this time Morse is determined to prove the link . . .
- The Way Through the Woods (1992) – They called her the Swedish Maiden – the beautiful young tourist who disappeared on a hot summer’s day somewhere in North Oxford. Twelve months later the case remained unsolved – pending further developments. On holiday in Lyme Regis, Chief Inspector Morse is startled to read a tantalizing article in The Times about the missing woman. An article which lures him back to Wytham Woods near Oxford… and straight into the most extraordinary murder investigation of his career.
- The Daughters of Cain (1994) – Chief Superintendent Strange’s opinion was that too little progress had been made since the discovery of a corpse in a North Oxford flat. The victim had been killed by a single stab wound to the stomach. Yet the police had no weapon, no suspect, no motive. Within days of taking over the case Chief Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis uncover startling new information about the life and death of Dr Felix McClure. When another body is discovered Morse suddenly finds himself with rather too many suspects. For once, he can see no solution. But then he receives a letter containing a declaration of love…
- Death Is Now My Neighbour (1996) – The murder of a young woman… A cryptic ‘seventeenth-century’ love poem… And a photograph of a mystery grey-haired man . . . More than enough to set Chief Inspector E. Morse on the trail of a killer. And it’s a trail that leads him to Lonsdale College, where the contest between Julian Storrs and Dr. Denis Cornford for the coveted position of Master is hotting up. But then Morse faces a greater, far more personal crisis . . .
- The Remorseful Day (1999) – For a year, the murder of Mrs. Yvonne Harrison at her home in Oxfordshire had baffled the Thames Valley CID. The manner of her death–her naked handcuffed body left lying in bed–matched her reputation as a women of adventuresome sexual tastes. The case seemed perfect for Inspector Morse. So why has he refused to become involved–even after anonymous hints of new evidence, even after a fresh murder? Sgt. Lewis’s loyalty to his infuriating boss slowly turns to deep distress as his own investigations suggest that Mrs. Harrison was no stranger to Morse. Far from it. Never has Morse performed more brilliantly than in this final adventure, whose masterly twists and turns through the shadowy byways of passion grip us to the death. . . .
- Inspector Morse also appears in several stories in Dexter’s short story collection, Morse’s Greatest Mystery and Other Stories.
If you like our article about the Inspector Morse series in order, don’t forget to bookmark it! You may also be interested in the Inspector Lynley series written by Elizabeth George, R.D. Wingfield’s Inspector Jack Frost series, or The Grantchester Mysteries by James Runcie.This article was last updated on May 18, 2023.