The Case of the Famished Parson by George Bellairs

The bishop of Greyle, James Macintosh, is found dead at the bottom of Bolter’s Hole. Someone has pushed him off the cliff for reasons unknown. And it just doesn’t end there. The bishop seems to be emaciated too.

Chief Inspector Littlejohn is on a vacation with his wife – Letty. The manager of the hotel insists that Littlejohn must help in the case. The case is given to Superintendent Bowater, an acquaintance of Littlejohn. Soon after, the case is handed over to the Scotland Yard and Littlejohn has to now solve the case, whether Letty likes it or not. After all, they are on a vacation, love!

Does Littlejohn manage to find out the truth about the bishop’s untimely death? Why did the bishop look so undernourished? Is the bishop’s crazy family somehow responsible for his death?


This is the first George Bellairs story that I read and I really liked it! I must admit that I did a eenie-meenie-miney-mo (not the song by Sean Kingston!) and selected an author at random. Then I googled for the “best books by this author” and the results included The Case of the Famished Parson. Enough of shop talk, let’s get to what I think about the book.

I read this book for The British Crime Classics Challenge that I am hosting/taking part in. This one’s a short read. I liked Bellairs’ writing style. It is quirky and even hilarious at times. Every character, no matter how sinister or silly, is portrayed in a funny way.

There’s Mr.Cuhady. The guy is here on a vacation with his ‘wife’. Everybody knows that she is not his wife but they act like they don’t know about it. When Mr.Cuhady’s shoes end up being dirtier than how he left it outside the room last night for a polish, he creates quite a scene. He wants the night porter fired. And his blood pressure is raising and raising and raising. He fires anybody and everybody. The night porter gets ‘fired’ – leave with pay until Mr. Cuhady leaves the hotel.

Chief Inspector Littlejohn calls Sergeant Cromwell to help him out with the case. This fella has a lot of quirks. He always carries a large suitcase – no matter however short his visit, his large suitcase is a must. And these are the things he carries in his ‘large’ suitcase. Books on police law, forensic medicine and toxicology, domestic medicine, wild birds and celebrated murder cases. And occasionally, one would also find a chest expander, two revolvers, ammunition and handcuffs in the suitcase.

Then comes the names of a few characters. Prickwillow, Tiplady and Tom Gomm (hmm). Dr.Rooksby is an EENT – this one does the eyes too. The local coroner – Dr.Tordopp, who seems to have a bad digestive system. He cannot even digest a simple meal! Then there is Harry Keast – his sophisticated English is… well! “Obsequious portentatiousness,” he says, admiring the view of the cliff and the sea. Phew! Sophistication redefined! There are many more such quirky characters in the story.

There’s a sinister angle to the bishop’s murder. Chief Inspector Littlejohn goes a long way to find this out. The guy even gets shot in the leg while investigating but nothing seems to stop him…until he realizes that he cannot walk!! Ouch! But our Inspector Littlejohn has the brains you see… he solves the mystery! And the reason for the murder – a nice twist in the story, or, should I say, seeing the murder from a whole new angle?!

I saw a lot of mixed opinions about this book on Goodreads. I didn’t find this story to be bad or anything. In fact, I found it to be quite interesting. It is not like the other crime classics that I have read so far. The characters are good. The story has an interesting angle to it. The writing is good too. So what else did I miss? Oh yes, there are a couple of British terminologies that non-British readers might not understand but the kindle dictionary works just fine so why worry?

The Case of the Famished Parson is the 15th book in the Inspector Littlejohn series but can be read as a standalone.




Language/Writing: 3.5/5

Plot/Story: 4.5/5

Character Development: 4/5

Ending: 4/5



Overall Rating: 4/5




Title: The Case of the Famished Parson (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #15)

Author: George Bellairs

Published on: 17th April 2016 (first published in 1939)

Genre: Crime Classics, Mystery

Purchase Links: Book Depository |



Featured Image Credits: Goodreads





26 thoughts on “The Case of the Famished Parson by George Bellairs

  1. I am somewhere in the middle with Bellairs I think, though I do need to go back to his work to try more. The British Library have reprinted a few of his books and have a new one coming out in February – Surfeit of Suspects. Death of a Busybody also has a rather unusual murder in it, which might be of interest.
    Very impressed you’ve got a post out on New Year’s Day too!

    1. I recently came across Bellairs’ work and I am liking it. Right now I am reading corpses in Enderby by Bellairs. The story is pretty interesting so far. Death of a busybody is next in my list.
      I had to do a post today – the new year enthusiasm and all that πŸ˜‰ haha. Happy new year to you, Kate. πŸ˜€

  2. Always exciting to see a review of a Bellairs show up and this is one I haven’t read yet though I have a copy. I am happy to hear this was a good one and I will be interested to check it out myself.

    1. Thank you, Aidan. I liked Chief Inspector Littlejohn, he’s a funny guy. I am currently reading Corpses in Enderby, another Littlejohn book by Bellairs. So far, the story is pretty interesting.

      1. Another one I own but haven’t read yet! I will be curious about how you think the two compare when you are done.

        One thing I had meant to say in my first reply – Littlejohn’s bad luck with holidays is a bit of a running theme in the series. He frequently travels to the Isle of Man and France, invariably getting drawn into a murder investigation when he gets there. Good to know it happens with his domestic holidays too.

      2. I think that is what makes the series different. Littlejohn being drawn into the investigation on his vacation. Until what I have read so far, only Cromwell’s made an appearance in Corpses in Enderby.
        Littlejohn series is kinda similar to MJ Trow’ s inspector Lestrade series – the humor part of it. Lestrade series is a Holmes pastiche but the writing is quite similar to Bellairs books.

      3. The first book is about Jack the Ripper and Struwwelpeter murders. A nice start to the series. The second book is so-so. Haven’t read them all so cannot comment on the rest.

  3. Do you usually find yourself liking an author you read for the first time?

      1. I tend to like them too. Maybe it’s not we are going in without any expectations πŸ€”

      2. Yeah, I think so too. But once you get a hang of the author’s writing and storytelling, you start expecting a lot from the story. πŸ˜‰πŸ˜€

  4. This sounds quite interesting. Must look it up. But I have a bunch of British Crime Classics already pending πŸ™‚ Great review.

  5. Your first book in the challenge! Nice review! ❀️ I haven’t read this book, or any by this author, but it sounds good. I might pick it up sometime! 😊

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