Book Review: The Inspector Dover Novels
DCI Wilfred Dover is lazy, unhygienic, rude, gluttonous, ill-tempered, sticky-fingered, and one of the most entertaining detectives of twentieth-century crime fiction. His creator, Joyce Porter, wrote ten novels and several short stories featuring Scotland Yard’s most boorish and crude sleuth, along with two other series featuring an amateur gentlewoman detective and a spy who is highly averse to espionage. The Dover mysteries have long been cult classics, but they’ve unfortunately fallen in and out of print in the United States for decades, and it’s often hard to find clean copies for reasonable prices. Now, Farrago is in the process of releasing the Dover series in e-books, and they’re marvelous treats for mystery fans.
Dover is loathe to perform investigative work, and would much rather spend his time drinking, smoking, and recuperating from a long list of health problems both real and imagined. Therefore, his not-so-loyal assistant, Sergeant MacGregor, a constantly put-upon young man who is Dover’s opposite in almost every way, is forced to use all of his powers of ingenuity to actually force his boss to do his job. Despite Dover’s antipathy to work in all of its forms, when he puts his mind to it, he’s a pretty effective detective, though on a couple of occasions in the series MacGregor solves the crime, and once in a while the solution is revealed unexpectedly through the spontaneous confession of a killer.
The Dover novels are dark in many ways– they feature outrageous and shocking motives, focus on the seedy underbelly of small and isolated English villages, and illustrate the social malaise Porter perceived to be afflicting Britain during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Yet for all of her commentary on the various problems affecting society and the British psyche, Porter was a consistently hilarious writer, whose books are full of witty one-liners, outrageous situations, memorably grotesque characters, and farcical crises. They’re black comedies with heart and intelligence, and they deserve a wider audience.
Farrago has seven of the ten Dover novels released or scheduled to be released as e-books. The first, the simply titled Dover One, has Dover and MacGregor investigating the disappearance of a young woman who has left behind a baby, a slovenly mother, a lascivious boss, and village full of eccentrics, most of whom have sinister secrets. Dover Two sees the detectives looking into the death by smothering of a young woman who was shot in an attack several months earlier, and who had been in a coma ever since. Dover Three focuses on the disruption brought to a community by a series of vile poison pen letters. Dover and the Unkindest Cut of All is the story of a village beset by mysterious disappearance, a suicidal policeman, and militant band of women serving as the morality police. Dover Goes to Pott investigates the murder of a plumbing magnate’s only daughter, and Dover Strikes Againfeatures a violent death in a village that has been wiped out by an earthquake. Finally, It’s Murder with Dover centers around the death of a nice young man near the estate of an impoverished aristocrat who struggles to make ends meet.
All of Porter’s Dover mysteries are full of clever and twisty plots, and plenty of laughs. Fans who enjoy chuckling while solving crimes would do well to explore the series.
Dover and the Unkindest Cut of All
Dover Goes to Pott
Dover Strikes Again
It’s Murder with Dover
By Joyce Porter
2019, 2020 Rerelease