I discovered Bellairs’ works through Aidan’s blog. His review of Death of a Busybody (yes!!) is what interested me to try one of Bellairs’ novels. The first book that I read was The Case of the Famished Parson and since then, I call myself a Bellairs fan. I admit I haven’t read all his books. In fact, this is the fourth book of his that I have read. Hopefully, by the end of this year, I will get through to read all the books in the Littlejohn series.
I love Bellairs’ writing style. Well, if you see the reviews on Goodreads, you will come across a few that say that the writing is not up to their liking. And everybody is entitled to have their own opinions now, aren’t they? The thing about the Littlejohn series is that, along with the (usual) crime (not so gory usually), there is humour and quirkiness. Take Reverend Claplady for example, the reader is introduced to his character in a funny way. He remembers weird poems out of the blue and somehow the poems gel well with the mood of the character/scenario.
And the names! Have you ever heard of a reverend called Claplady?? How about a police constable named Harriwinckle? (yes, it’s winckle) or a local grocer named Allnutt? The heroine of this story (or should I call her the busybody?) is Miss Tither. she’s the kind of ‘busybody’ that everyone in the society tends to avoid. Who kissed whom, who had an extra-marital affair, when, what, why and how – she knows it all. Also, she uses religion to bring these ‘wrongdoers’ to light.
Inspector Thomas Littlejohn is an intelligent fella. You give him an egg and he will find the hen! Okay, not really… So, Inspector Littlejohn is one of the quirkiest characters in the story. Unlike Inspector Japp or Lestrade, this fella is the main sleuth in the story. His deduction skills are appreciable.
The story is, as the title says, about the death of a busybody. Miss Tither is found in a cesspool. Her head’s been bashed and she’s left to drown in a cesspool. It is a well-known fact that the villagers have a grudge on her but who would have hated her so much that they killed her in such a horrendous manner? Littlejohn is called in by his old friend Inspector Oldfield to investigate the murder of Miss Tither. As Littlejohn makes himself familiar with the village and its residents, he stumbles across a closet full of skeletons.
I wouldn’t say that I really enjoyed reading this book. I liked it all right, but not as much I enjoyed reading Crime in Lepers’ Hollow and The Case of the Famished Parson. The essence of humour is almost nil in the second half of the book. Or maybe, it just got a tad boring and I totally missed it. I liked the part where Cromwell investigates the case from London. That was pretty interesting. However, the same cannot be said about Littlejohn’s investigation in Hillary Magna. The overall mood of the story is like a cosine curve. Starts on a good note, then becomes a tad dull and then as the story ends, it’s again interesting.
The reason behind the murder and the identity of the murder was surprising. The reader is given clues about the identity of the killer almost halfway through the story (say 60-65% through the story). There were too many (unwanted) details I suppose and that made the story a tad boring. Nevertheless, it’s Bellairs! His witty writing style and Littlejohn’s adventures did not disappoint me much. There’s also a foreword by Martin Edwards which gives you a sneak peek into Bellairs’ life. I wouldn’t call this book one of Bellairs’ best but as I said before, I do have plans to read the whole series.
Character Development: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
Title: Death of a Busybody (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #3)
Author: George Bellairs
Re-published by The British Library on 10th October 2016
Genre: Crime and Mystery
Featured Image Credits: Goodreads
Vintage Mystery Challenge: How – death by drowning
British Crime classics Challenge