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Authors: Colin Dexter

The Wench is Dead

CRITICAL ACCLAIM FOR

Colin Dexter

The Remorseful Day
‘Morse’s last case is a virtuoso piece of plotting … by quitting the game on the top of his form [Dexter] has set his fellow crime-writers an example they will find hard to
emulate’
Sunday Times

Death Is Now My Neighbour
‘Dexter has created a giant among fictional detectives and has never short-changed his readers’
The Times

The Daughters of Cain
‘This is Colin Dexter at his most excitingly devious’
Daily Telegraph

The Way Through the Woods
‘Morse and his faithful Watson, Sergeant Lewis, in supreme form … Hallelujah’
Observer

The Jewel that Was Ours
‘Traditional crime writing at its best; the kind of book without which no armchair is complete’
Sunday Times

The Wench Is Dead
‘Dextrously ingenious’
Guardian

The Secret of Annexe 3
‘A plot of classic cunning and intricacy’
Times Literary Supplement

The Riddle of the Third Mile
‘Runs the gamut of brain-racking unputdownability’
Observer

The Dead of Jericho
‘The writing is highly intelligent, the atmosphere melancholy, the effect haunting’
Daily Telegraph

Service of All the Dead
‘A brilliantly plotted detective story’
Evening Standard

The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn
‘Morse’s superman status is reinforced by an ending which no ordinary mortal could have possibly unravelled’
Financial Times

Last Seen Wearing
‘Brilliant characterization in original whodunnit’
Sunday Telegraph

Last Bus to Woodstock
‘Let those who lament the decline of the English detective story reach for Colin Dexter’
Guardian

THE WENCH IS DEAD

Colin Dexter graduated from Cambridge University in 1953 and has lived in Oxford since 1966. His first novel,
Last Bus to Woodstock
, was published
in 1975. There are now thirteen novels in the series, of which
The Remorseful Day
is, sadly, the last.

Colin Dexter has won many awards for his novels, including the CWA Silver Dagger twice, and the CWA Gold Dagger for
The Wench Is Dead
and
The Way Through the Woods
. In 1997 he was
presented with the CWA Diamond Dagger for outstanding services to crime literature, and in 2000 was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

The Inspector Morse novels have been adapted for the small screen with huge success by Carlton/Central Television, starring John Thaw and Kevin Whately.

THE INSPECTOR MORSE NOVELS

Last Bus to Woodstock
Last Seen Wearing
The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn
Service of All the Dead
The Dead of Jericho
The Riddle of the Third Mile
The Secret of Annexe 3
The Wench Is Dead
The Jewel that Was Ours
The Way Through the Woods
The Daughters of Cain
Death Is Now My Neighbour
The Remorseful Day

Also available in Pan Books

Morse’s Greatest Mystery and Other Stories
The First Inspector Morse Omnibus
The Second Inspector Morse Omnibus
The Third Inspector Morse Omnibus
The Fourth Inspector Morse Omnibus

COLIN DEXTER
THE WENCH
IS DEAD

PAN BOOKS

First published 1989 by Macmillan

First published in paperback 1990 by Pan Books

This edition published 2007 by Pan Books

This electronic edition published 2008 by Pan Books
an imprint of Pan Macmillan Ltd
Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Rd, London N1 9RR
Basingstoke and Oxford
Associated companies throughout the world
www. panmacmillan.com

ISBN 978-0-330-46891-6 in Adobe Reader format
ISBN 978-0-330-46890-9 in Adobe Digital Editions format
ISBN 978-0-330-46893-0 in Microsoft Reader format
ISBN 978-0-330-46892-3 in Mobipocket format

Copyright © Colin Dexter 1989

The right of Colin Dexter to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

You may not copy, store, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means (electronic,
digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication
may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Visit
www. panmacmillan.com
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For
Harry Judge,
lover of canals, who introduced me to
The Murder of Christine Collins
,
a fascinating account of an
early Victorian murder,
by
John Godwin.
To both I am deeply indebted.
(Copies of John Godwin’s publication are obtainable
through the divisional Librarian, Stafford
Borough Library.)

Thou hast committed –
Fornication; but that was in another country,
And besides, the wench is dead
(Christopher Marlowe,
The Jew of Malta)

A
CKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The author and publishers wish to thank the following who have kindly given permission for use of copyright materials:

Map of Oxford Canal reproduced by permission of Oxfordshire Museum Services;

Century Hutchinson Limited for extracts from
Adventures in Wonderland
by David Grayson;

Faber and Faber Ltd for extracts from ‘Little Gidding’ from
Four Quartets
by T. S. Eliot;

David Higham Associates Limited on behalf of Dorothy L. Sayers for extracts from
The Murder of Julia Wallace
, published by Gollancz;

Methuen London Limited for extracts from
A Man’s a Man
by Bertolt Brecht;

Oxfordshire Health Authority for extracts from
Handbook for Patients and Visitors
;

Oxford Illustrated Press for extracts from
The Erosion of Oxford
by James Stevens Curl;

E. O. Parrott for extracts;

Routledge, Chapman and Hall for extracts from
Understanding Media
by Marshall McLuhan;

The Society of Authors on behalf of the Bernard Shaw Estate for extracts from
Back to Methuselah
, published by Longman.

Every effort has been made to trace all the copyright holders but if any have been inadvertently overlooked, the author and publishers will be pleased to make the necessary
arrangement at the first opportunity.

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Part One

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Epilogue

Endnotes

C
HAPTER
O
NE

Thought depends absolutely on the stomach; but, in spite of that, those who have the best stomachs are not the best thinkers

(
Voltaire, in a letter to d’Alembert
)

I
NTERMITTENTLY, ON THE
Tuesday, he felt sick. Frequently, on the Wednesday, he
was
sick. On the Thursday, he felt sick frequently, but was
actually sick only intermittently. With difficulty, early on the Friday morning – drained, listless, and infinitely weary – he found the energy to drag himself from his bed to the
telephone, and seek to apologize to his superiors at Kidlington Police HQ for what was going to be an odds-on non-appearance at the office that late November day.

When he awoke on the Saturday morning, he was happily aware that he was feeling considerably better; and, indeed, as he sat in the kitchen of his bachelor flat in North Oxford, dressed in
pyjamas as gaudily striped as a Lido deckchair, he was debating whether his stomach could cope with a wafer of Weetabix – when the phone rang.

‘Morse here,’ he said.

‘Good morning, sir.’ (A pleasing voice!) ‘If you can hold the line a minute, the Superintendent would like a word with you.’

Morse held the line. Little option, was there? No option, really; and he scanned the headlines of
The Times
which had just been pushed through the letter-box in the small entrance hall
– late, as usual on Saturdays.

‘I’m putting you through to the Superintendent,’ said the same pleasing voice – ‘just a moment, please!’

Morse said nothing; but he almost prayed (quite something for a low-church atheist) that Strange would get a move on and come to the phone and say whatever it was he’d got to say … The
prickles of sweat were forming on his forehead, and his left hand plucked at his pyjama-top pocket for his handkerchief.

‘Ah! Morse? Yes? Ah! Sorry to hear you’re a bit off-colour, old boy. Lots of it about, you know. The wife’s brother had it – when was it now? – fortnight or so
back? No! I tell a lie – must have been three weeks, at least. Still, that’s neither here nor there, is it?’

In enlarged globules, the prickles of sweat had reformed on Morse’s forehead, and he wiped his brow once more as he mumbled a few dutifully appreciative noises into the telephone.

‘Didn’t get you out of bed, I hope?’

‘No – no, sir.’

‘Good. Good! Thought I’d just have a quick word, that’s all. Er … Look here, Morse!’ (Clearly Strange’s thoughts had moved to a conclusion.) ‘No need for
you to come in today – no need at all! Unless you feel suddenly very much better, that is. We can just about cope here, I should think. The cemeteries are full of indispensable men –
eh? Huh!’

‘Thank you, sir. Very kind of you to ring – I much appreciate it – but I am officially off duty this weekend in any case—’

‘Really? Ah! That’s good! That’s er …
very
good, isn’t it? Give you a chance to stay in bed.’

‘Perhaps so, sir,’ said Morse wearily.

‘You say you’re
up
, though?’

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