“There really must be a murder or at least a major
felony — otherwise, what’s the point? Who’s ripping
off the hand towels at the Dorchester Hotel is hardly
the business of a mystery novel.”
I didn’t begin reading mysteries until my early 40’s. Not even an Agatha Christie. My mother was a mystery reader, a Sherlock Holmes aficionado. It is one of those ‘if only’ moments in my life that I would have loved to share with her, but it took me a while to become something of an aficionado myself. We didn’t get to share the conversations I have with my own daughter who loves mysteries too. I have written that book jackets are the first thing that must pass my test. Then there is the blurb that must speak my language, with keywords like ‘village,’ ‘Vicar,’ ‘Inspector.’
One of the most fabulous series of book covers belong to the British Library Crime Classics, crime fiction published during the first half of the 20th century from Sherlock Holmes to the end of the Golden age of mystery writing, Poisoned Pen Press has reissued these classics and introduced a new generation of readers to these mystery writers and their work. I, for one, am delighted!
George Bellairs was a crime writer and bank manager born in Lancashire, who settled in the Isle of Man on retirement. He wrote more than 50 books, most featuring the Detective Inspector Thomas Littlejohn. His first novel Littlejohn on Leave was published in 1941. His books are regularly set on the Isle of Man and portray the topography of the Isle in great detail. Many of the later books are set in France, usually in the Provence and Alps-Maritime area. Otherwise quiet English country villages are the most common with Bellairs.
Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs was his 3rd novel first published in 1942. It was my first introduction to Inspector Littlejohn and I look forward to spending more time with this highly likable man.
Death of a Busybody is about Miss Ethel Tither. She has made herself deeply unpopular in the quintessentially English village of Hilary Magna, since she snoops on people, and interfere with their lives. By the end of chapter one, this unpleasant lady is found floating in a cesspool, having been bludgeoned prior to drowning in the drainage water. The local police call in Inspector Thomas Littlejohn from Scotland Yard to help with the case. We have a well-written mystery with characters that engage, especially Constable Harriwincle, the local man who dreams of earning his Sargent stripes by solving this case. A good mystery, well drawn and satisfying.
This post is written with my mother in mind who probably read most of these British Library Classics when they were first published. She gave me the love of reading for my entire life – Madeline Flora Thompson Forgue