We first met the two determined detectives in second novel, The Vanishing Lord, where Detective Chief Inspector Thompson was so convinced that The Dean was responsible for the theft of the priceless Lord Layton portrait that he arrested him twice. Although the unexpected resolution of that particular case had nothing to do with The Dean, the peace and quiet afforded by him spending a night in custody was welcomed by the rest of College and the Chief Inspector drew quiet respect from the Porters’ Lodge.
Detective Sergeant Vicky Kirby, meanwhile, caught the eye of habitual curmudgeon Porter and a tentative romance flourished between them. This improbable affair continues into Sinister Dexter and enables our heroes access to useful information about the ongoing police investigation which would otherwise be strictly confidential. Down-to-earth and unafraid of a bit of rough and tumble, DS Kirby’s straightforward manner is the perfect match for gruff Northerner Porter, who until meeting her seemed incapable of expressing any outward emotion apart from a general air of discontent, and then only through the medium of his moustache.
The Detective Sergeant had only recently left behind her uniformed role when she and the DCI first arrived at Old College and the hallmarks of a frontline officer still lay fresh upon the shoulders of her understated suit. Now, though, she is finding her feet as a detective as well as finding time for a bit of off duty how’s-your-father with the Porters’ Lodge’s most surprising Lothario.
My good self and Vicky Kirby, the inspiration behind the character of the Detective Sergeant
There is time for no such frivolity where DCI Thompson is concerned, however, as he throws himself whole heartedly into the investigation of first two dead bodies – and then a third – within College grounds. An alumnus of the prestigious Wastell College, the experienced Chief Inspector knows only too well the difficulties of dealing with the academic elite. Fearsomely insular at the best of times, the upper echelons of Old College resist the interference of the authorities at every turn, but DCI Thompson refuses to be deterred and employs a firm hand in dealing with both The Dean and The Master. He shows a softer side to Deputy Head Porter, however, and the two even embark upon attempts at social intercourse in favourite drinking establishment The Albatross, although these are derailed, as ever, by the call of duty.
Aside from the uneducated and the working class, the police are probably the least welcome visitors to the grounds of Old College, but the tenacity of DCI Thompson and feminine wiles of DS Kirby give them a steel toe-capped foot firmly in the door and it is unlikely that this is the last we will see of them in The City’s most famous and notorious seat of learning.