THE SECRET OF ANNEXE 3 by Colin Dexter is the seventh instalment in the Inspector Morse series of crime novels. Morse is called from his recess to investigate the murder of a man dressed up as a Rastafarian in the Haworth Hotel. The hotel hosting its annual New Year’s fancy dress ball had guests dressed up in one form or the other, with the murder victim dressing up like a Rastafari. No sooner does Morse start looking into the case, than he is hounded by the fact that most of the guests, who chose to depart after the murder, had registered under false names. With some giving addresses not present in the map, and some providing those which are inhabited by someone else, and some deciding to register under false names. Morse finally manages to clear the cobwebs, and after (typically) running after a quite a few red herrings finally manages to find out the truth.
The aspect which was most evident was that this book, unlike other Morse novels like The Way Through the Woods or The Riddle of the Third Mile, had a humorous undertone. While reading the book I got a distinct feeling that I was reading a crime novel which is meant to be funny. Be it the description of the dresses worn by the guests, or the deviousness shown by the guests while choosing their false address and names, the humor was more than present. Reading those lines brought a smile to my face. And not to forget Morse’ faux pas, when it came to women. In other books these interactions brings a subtle sadness, but that was not the case here. Morse bumbled with women, and I laughed at his foolishness. Moreover, Morse also managed to receive a love letter from a lady who used as incident from the life of Thomas Hardy.
The plot, as always, was tight. Colin Dexter it seems is incapable of producing a plot which falls flat. His triumph as a crime writer comes out from the fact that the reader while enjoying the book as a nicely written piece of English literature, where the descriptions and the scenes created are a treat to read. But, the book never loses focus from the crime. It doesn’t become a book where the crime takes a backseat to the literary hocus pocus churned out by the author. Dexter keeps the crime intact, gives us the requisite number of twists to keep us happy, and wraps the whole affair in a coating of good writing to make the book a treat to read. Though the plot ended with a coincidence which seemed a bit farfetched, but the better points overshadowed this minor flaw, and as Morse puts it, “And if anyone ever tells you, Lewis, that there isn't a quite extraordinary degree of coincidence in this world of ours—then you tell him to come to see me, and I'll tell him different.”