Norman Colin Dexter has received multiple honors and awards, including the CWA Gold Dagger and Silver Dagger awards, the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for outstanding services to crime literature (1997) and the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to literature.
All of his 13 novels and most of his short stories feature his famous fictional creation, Inspector Morse, who shares a love of classical music and crosswords with the author. The TV series based on Morse, starring actor John Thaw, ran for 33 episides from 1987-2000, followed by several more episodes of Inspector Lewis, featuring Morse's sidekick.
Dexter's short-story output isn't large, with some seven individual stories appearing in various magazines and anthologies, and only one collection, Morse's Greatest Mystery, from 1993 (in the UK; 1995 in the U.S). The 11 stories in this volume include six Morse/Lewis stories; one of Dexter's few American-set stories, about a group of con men; and his only Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Some of the highlights:
"The Inside Story": In the longest of the stories in the group, Morse and Lewis investigate after a young woman is stabbed to death in Oxford. The victim was writing a short story for a crime fiction contest (to be judged by no less than Julian Symons and H.R.F. Keating), and it becomes apparent to Morse there are autobiographical details included in her story that are not only clues, but motive for murder. (As an aside, this story was later bundled into a special edition paperback original, complete with crossword puzzle, and commissioned by American Express.)
"Evans Tries an O-Level": This is a humorous and complex prison breakout yarn featuring the title character of James Roderick Evans, a convict already involved in two failed breakouts from an Oxford prison, which has earned him the nickname "Evans the Break." When Evans announces he wants to take an O-Level exam in German, this quite rightfully makes the prison Governor suspicious. (The story received a Macavity Award in 1996.)
"Neighbourhood Watch": A German professor's car is stolen and returned with an apology and tickets to the opera. Morse smugly believes it's a ploy to set up a cunning robbery while the professor attends the opera, only the tables end up being turned on Morse instead.
"A Case of Mis-Identity": In this Holmes pastiche, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes are rivals in trying to figure out the real story behind a disappearing bridegroom mystery, yet it's the loyal Watson who saves the day and has one of his few moments in the sun.
The stories included in the collection are a bit uneven, but the Morse offerings preserve the essence of the character, his intellect, quirkiness and wit. All in all, the longer novel format is probably a better vehicle to provide context for Morse and allow for the more intricate and careful plotting that Morse fans have come to expect.