"It won't do, Morse. It won't bloody do."
If I was a wrongdoer and heard Fred Thursday speak those words, I'd be quaking in my boots. It means things are serious. And indeed they are.
Passenger begins with the usual intercut scenes. A trainspotter watches an engine whoosh into the station while a giggling couple cavort in bed. Meanwhile, some thugs hijack a lorry, brutally striking down the driver.
Back at the office, the pressure is on for officers to prove their worth to division. Thursday is put in a managerial role as two obviously smarmy bastards from Robbery arrive to assist with the lorry investigation: D.I. Ronnie Box and D.S. Patrick Dawson.
Morse goes to Frances's last known location, her job at a boutique called Alice's Marmalade Cat. An unrecognizable Hadley Fraser plays the owner, Marty Bedlo. A slim, timid employee named Anoushka Nolan tips Morse off that Frances had stolen a red hat and shoes to go see her lover, "Don," in King's Cross. Morse tracks him down via a car registration number left at the lovers' hotel. He's really Don Mercer, a married dessert salesman. He said he left Frances on the train to Oxford (he later backtracks and said he let her walk to the station), but when Morse talks to Station Master Karl Patterson, he says there were no trains to Oxford that night.
Not quite true, says "railway enthusiast" Cedric Naughton who's definitely this episode's Obvious Suspect. There's a special train that goes through the station sometimes, Naughton says, and Morse, on a hunch, follows this route and tracks down a distant, abandoned station where he finds Frances's body, absent her shoes. When Dorothea turns up soon afterward and brings up an old local murder - Linda Gresham, she mentions that the killer - nicknamed "Prince Charming" - took his victim's shoes as a souvenir. Morse is appreciative, but Thursday is grumpily tight-lipped. "We both have jobs to do," she says, sassily. I love her so much.
Meanwhile, on her rounds, Trewlove is looking through a pile of records at a roadside stall when she notices one of them was the Rosalind Calloway record stolen from Morse's flat last season (all you armchair detectives in the comments can rest easy, Russell Lewis is on the case). Noting the vendors' number, she passes the information on to George, sorry, Fancy, with whom she is almost-but-not-quite flirting.
The two division scumbags gang up on Trewlove in the office, and Box is on the verge of striking her when all the Cowley boys dive in to fight back. The scene is over too quickly. I wanted to see Strange batter Dawson with his trombone. Poor Bright throws all his ha'penny grandeur at Ronnie Box, who is surly and goes on about a whole new world of politics and power. Bright is such an interesting character.
Fancy makes a deal with the vendor, Jamaican Lloyd Collins, to get some whisky stolen in the lorry hijacking, but when he arrives at the meeting place he finds Collins done to death, croaking the name of his killer, "Cromwell Ames." A dead cockerel lies beside him, and the voodoo sign leads Thursday and Strange to track down a Jamaican bar and start asking questions. That's the end of that storyline for this week, but presumably it will pick up again next Sunday as we find out more about this mysterious (and marvelously named) threat to Eddie Nero's criminal empire.
The next body discovered raises more questions, as several mistakes make it seem like we may be dealing not with the same killer but a copycat murder. Eventually, it's a visit to Frances's aged mother which provides the cinching clue in a mystery which keeps our interest every step of the way.
The plots interweave gracefully and it's easy to follow everything. It kept me guessing who the killer was all the way through (not that I didn't suspect that person, but the episode made me suspect everyone). There's just enough personal stuff to spice up what's a refreshingly mystery-central story. This one is a winner.
My review of the next episode: Colours.
- Trewlove delivering savage burns the two idiots from Division is amazing. This episode is the first one where I completely love her character.
- Don: "Christ." Thursday: "He's nothing to do with it, but you are." I much approve.
- "Man would come by better moral instruction in a monkey-house" - Bright on modern sexual morality.
- Not commented on, though, is the casual racism - this has turned up several times in this series, and I trust Russell Lewis enough to think it's probably building up to an indictment of the characters we love in coming episodes.
- Boy, does Dorothea own every scene she's in.
- D.I. Box's smarmy sidekick, D.S. Dawson will turn up in Inspector Morse: Second Time Around as D.I. Patrick Dawson. In that, he's played by the great character actor Kenneth Colley.
If you enjoyed this article, check out my full list of detective reviews.