The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn by Colin Dexter (1977)

The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn comes as the third book in the Inspector Morse series, written by Colin Dexter in 19773. Morse is a middle aged English detective who solves the case of the murder of Nicholas Quinn, a deaf employee at the Oxford Foreign Examinations Syndicate, with the help of his underling Lewis. Nicholas Quinn’s body is found in his apartment after not showing up to work. There are immediately five suspects in the form of his colleagues, Mr. Roope, the secretary Dr. Bartlett, Mr. Ogleby, Mr. Martin and the young and attractive Ms. Height. This novel is full of false leads and red herrings and the reader is ping ponged back and forth between the suspects and how and why they could have possibly done it.

The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn is a true police procedural. It covers all of the requirements of the genre. The main character is a detective who must solve the mystery of a murder with the help of his sidekick. He is forced to follow the rules of the law which makes it quite different than a hard boiled novel would be. He is not an independent entity but relies on fellow officers and crime scene investigators for clues and results. Morse delegates some of the smaller tasks to his companion Lewis, while taking on the more major aspects of the case himself. While he is clearly confident in his ability to solve cases, he does value the opinion of others. Unlike the traditional detectives of hardboiled novels, Morse is not violent. He is intelligent and insightful and solves the puzzle slowly and thoughtfully. The book centers mostly around the interviews that Morse conducts with the suspects and through these interviews we see the story unravel as well as the inner workings of Morse’s mind.

Inspector Morse himself is a rather cagey detective. The story is told in third person, focusing on the detective. We see him come to conclusions and discover new clues but, in a style similar to Sherlock, we are not immediately informed of why these things are significant and what Morse is thinking. One of the more confusing aspects of the way this book is written is that while the novel is mostly told from Morse’s perspective, the reader gets momentary glimpses into the minds of other characters. It is almost as if the writer is a bug spending most of its time on Morse’s shoulder but occasionally jumping to another persons for just a moment. I personally found this style of writing fairly confusing. While it wasn’t hard to notice when the point of view changed, it was nonetheless off putting to have a momentary glimpse into someone else’s life. It made the telling of the story feel somewhat cluttered and choppy. It did remind me of a TV show, where the camera pans to other characters to catch an expression or a secret conversation which lets the watcher in on little details they would otherwise be oblivious to. This may be why the books were so successfully adapted into a TV series.

The TV series “Inspector Morse” was produced between 1987 and 2000 and consisted of 33 episodes. It was a great success and interestingly enough Colin Dexter himself cameoed in almost all of the episodes which seems to imply he approved of the shows adaptation. The plot of The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn was the second episode in the series 1.

I highly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone. It is not a difficult read and can almost be done in one sitting (if you fancy spending 6 hours cuddled up with a book and a cup of tea). The writing is simple but not unintelligent. Dexter creates an entertaining and engaging character in Morse, and the fact that the minor characters are hardly developed doesn’t take much away from the novel. The only thing that caught me off guard was the continual changing of point of view. Finding myself randomly in the pocket of Ms. Height or Dr. Bartlett was always a bit confusing. Anyone looking to get lost in an easy to read and easy to fall into detective novel cannot go wrong with The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn.


  1. “Inspector Morse (TV Series).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Nov. 2017,
  2. Jean. “The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (Inspector Morse, #3).” The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn by Colin Dexter, 9 Sept. 2001,
  3. “The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Nov. 2017, 

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