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A man suspected of being a multiple murderer is killed in prison while on remand awaiting trial, leaving the disappearance of a fifth woman unsolved. In the missing woman's effects was a postcard of a pre-Raphaelite painting, the background of which was painted in some woods near Oxford. Morse is assigned to a new murder investigation when what appears to be her body is found in the woods.moreless
Murder strikes at the heart of the University when Dr Felix McClure, a retired college don, is found stabbed to death.
Morse and Lewis suspect Ted Brooks, McClure's old 'scout' (or college servant), who left his job abruptly after one of McClure's pupils committed suicide. Morse discovers that McClure, the suicidal undergraduate, and his room-mate, Ashley Davies, were all in love with the same woman - who was Brooks's daughter.
Morse and Lewis add to their list of suspects when they question the unusually close relationship between Ted Brooks's wife Brenda and the woman she cleans house for, a schoolteacher called Julia Stevens. Julia seems to be protecting Brenda from her husband's abusive behavior - but when Ted is found dead, it seems she may be hiding another kind of secret.
The owner of a private hospital is found murdered in his car, after a series of anonymous threatening letters. Suspicion falls on a retired book-maker whose daughter suffered severe brain damage as a result of negligence during an operation some years before.
Morse spends a lot of effort in investigating the possibility that the dead man was criminally negligent, and concludes that he was. While he does his best to bring the killer to justice, Morse does not seem very troubled that at the end of the day he is unable to nail him.
Morse and Lewis hunt a violent rapist who has escaped from prison. They find themselves drawn into an under-world of satanists, and some of them seem more respectable than others.
A nasty but very rich business man and a world-famous opera singer are in Oxford to receive honorary degrees from the Chancellor of the University. However, the ceremony has to be abandoned when a sniper opens fire on the procession of dignitaries. The singer is seriously wounded, but was she the intended target?