As Endeavour returns for Season 5, the Oxford City Police are dissolved while Nastya's Egg arrives for auction.
DeBryn: Unlikely he'd survive a metal spike being driven into his ear. Whether that was insult to injury remains to be seen.
We return to Morse's Oxford in the spring of 1968, April, to be exact. Our mystery starts out with the murder of one Joey Sykes. Thursday (Roger Allam) actually IDs him before anyone else can. He was a boxer who he's seen fight a few times locally and a petty criminal to boot. He's been shot three times and then a metal spike pounded into his ear for good measure. Superintendent Bright (Anton Lesser) worries this is criminal infighting attempting to take advantage of the current police force restructuring. Said restructuring is a running theme, with a model of the Thames Valley building Morse will one day work out thirty years down the road even turning up. It even has computers! (Very smart indeed.) But the knowledge of their absorption into the new building suggests not all staff will be making the move.
Morse (Shaun Evans) can't worry about all that right now. His promotion to Sargent means he and Strange (Sean Rigby) make two DSes in one office. Morse, being the newer promoted, would normally transfer. But with the reorganization, he's being left where he is for the moment. He has nowhere to live, so he's rooming with Strange for the duration. Meanwhile, he's given the new DC, George Fancy (Lewis Peek, Poldark), to mentor. Fancy seems a good egg, just really young. Also, Joan Thursday (Sara Vickers) is back in town, having left her abusive boyfriend, even though everyone maintains the polite fiction that "she slipped" rather than was thrown down the stairs. Her mutual crush with Morse is obvious.
An investigation of Sykes' apartment turns up a suitcase full to bursting of "contact mags" (how one hired sex workers in ye old days before the internet), and a car registered to a service that's a known front for Eddie Nero's Criminal Enterprises Esq. Eddie, for the record, runs the boxing outfit. He also has no idea Joey's dead. Said sex worker seems to have been the last to see him alive.
That same night, a couple of dons accidentally disturb an attempted burglary of Lonsdale College when they see the criminal up on the roof. This is the building where Nastya's Egg, Faberge's last great masterpiece, is being housed prior to the auction. Dr. Robin Grey, the Russian art don, appraised the egg. He believes the burglar, and the rose that was found left behind, belong to "The Shadow," an international art thief. Morse is unconvinced, chalking it up to an April Fools prank. He maybe shouldn't, because before long Dr. Grey is pulling out a contact mag of his own and ringing up the sex worker from earlier. Morse has taken to calling her "The Woman in the White Raincoat." Then Grey turns up dead, with his eyes put out.
DeBryn: He literally didn't see it coming.
The good news is there is an ID on her from a student. She's a life model from his class with Jared Pickman. The student is a good enough sketcher to give Morse a decent image of her face. Pickman hands out her name, Eve Thorne. Dr. Grey apparently has been obsessed with her. Ruth Astor, from the telephone operator crew, confirms the time he left Eve a call on her messaging service. But while Eve's in for questioning, locked down at the station, the dealer who has the Egg, Simon Lake — who also happened to be Robin Grey's best friend — turns up beheaded. More importantly, the Egg is gone, a red rose is left in the safe. Lake is one of Eve's regular customers too, apparently. But the sheer violence of the three murders makes Bright and Thursday loathe to pin it on a woman. Even though, as Morse learns, she knows a great deal about art.
She also knows that Pickman and Lake knew each other too, and a search of Lake's airplane turns up The Shadow's burglary outfit. It was all a con. Lake refused to say who's estate he was representing because there was no estate. Lake, Pickman, and Grey had been given the egg as payment for smuggling Russians to freedom in WWII. But without proof it was the real deal, it was worthless. So they waited until Grey was in a position at Oxford to be an authority. Pickman drew up the false Fabriege designs "proving" it was the last design; Grey declared them real. Lake was going to give the Egg to Pickman to hide and claim "The Shadow" stole it. But when Pickman turned up to collect the Egg, he found Lake, and his lack of head, and booked it.
So who are the suspects left? Morse turns to consider some of the Dons not in on the con, men who were part of a group called "The Berserkers Club" where both Grey and Lake were members. Their last big party was Grey's stag, at the Shiplake Chase Hotel. The hotel's "SC" symbol matches the "SC" symbol on one of the bar bills in Sykes' possession, the knife used to gouge Grey's eyes out, and the platter where Lake's head was sitting. And from the hotel staff's description, those who partied their that night acted wild and terrible.
Is Eve taking revenge? Her message bills, it turns out, are being paid for by Eddie Nero, tying him and Sykes into the call girl ring, which it turns out sent two women as "entertainment" to the stag party. But it turns out the call girl ring also includes the telephone operator Ruth Astor. A good Catholic girl who gave the book of Christian art to Eve, her first job with Sykes was that stag party, where she was violently gang-raped Lake, Grey and one of the other dons.
Eddie got her the job at the telephone service after that to "make it right." From this position, she's been hunting them down one by one, by tracking their calls to Eve. Each of these murders is fashioned after a painting of women taking their revenge on men. Eve has put two and two together and tracks her down to the next murder. But by the time she's arrived Ruth's killed her final rapist, cut her wrists and is bleeding out, satisfied that she got all the men who hurt her that night. When Morse and Thursday arrive, Ruth's already dead, and Eve refuses to let anyone touch her, crying hysterically. Bright asks Thursday if there's anyone they can charge, but he says no: Eve didn't know until it was too late, and Eddie will most likely slip through.
It's a rare case where there's no justice for the dead, but perhaps, considering their misdeeds, they didn't deserve it anyway.