The Dead Shall be Raised and Murder of a Quack is a set of novellas by George Bellairs. If you haven’t heard of Bellairs before… what do you mean by ‘you haven’t heard of him???’!!!
The Dead Shall be Raised
It’s Christmas Time and Inspector Littlejohn is on his way to meet his wife at the little village of Hatterworth. The London bombings (WWII) has affected poor Letty (Mrs Littlejohn) – Littlejohn came home one evening to find his house in rubble and Letty in the hospital with bruises and concussion. He sent her off to her friend’s place – the moors would do some good for her nerves.
So, here he is, on the train. The blackout is everywhere, including the train carriage that he’s in. It might be Christmas eve but the country is still in darkness. Littlejohn meets the local Superintendent Haworth and the duo strike a chord immediately. On Christmas, Haworth learns that Enoch Skyes’ body is found on the moors. Skyes was the main suspect in the murder of his friend Jerry Trickett. A day later, Haworth injures his leg and asks Littlejohn to assist the case.
Before I discuss the story, let me tell you about the quirky character names. There are a lot of ‘worth’y men in Hatterworth. Superintendent Haworth, P.C. Joe Shuttleworth, County Coroner Butterworth… Then comes our Reverend Gotobed (no, I am not asking you to ‘go to bed’), Sir Caleb Haythornthwaite and Three Fingers (yeah, you guessed it right! If you did guess, that is…)
For a novella, the story seemed a tad dragged. The mystery was okay – Skyes skeletal remains are found twenty years after he went missing. This means the killer is still around, hopefully… Most of the witnesses, friends and family of the murdered men are now six-feet-under. The ones who are still alive have no ways to prove their alibis.
Halfway through the story, the identity of the killer was obvious. Then, it turned out to be an inverted mystery of sorts. I cannot say much about how Littlejohn goes on, finding clues without giving out some spoilers. But, let me tell you this. The killer took the easiest way out. This wasn’t something that I expected. Justice served? In a way, yes, because the killer was caught. But… it wasn’t the kind of ending that I was expecting.
Murder of a Quack
PC Mellalieu is urgently requested to come to Nathaniel Wall’s house. His housekeeper seems to be in distress – her master has locked himself in the surgery. On opening the door, Mellalieu finds Walls dead – he’s hanging from one the instruments used to set limbs and bones. Inspector Gillibrand requests the help of Scotland and Littlejohn arrives at the tiny village of Olstead.
Nathaniel Wall was a quack – no formal education but he was well-known for setting bones right (a bonesetter). On further investigation, Littlejohn finds two or three suspects in the case. One is a young woman of thirty who considered Wall to be her godfather-of-sorts. Wall had opposed her engagement to Mr.Rider. The other suspect is the local doctor. As the story proceeds, the murderer seems to have had a more sinister reason for committing the crime.
I am not a fan of inverted mysteries. I do not like the identity of the killer to be revealed until the end. In Murder of a Quack, the identity of the killer isn’t revealed but the clues are sufficient enough for the reader to guess as to who the murderer is. From all the Littlejohn novels I have read so far, the identity of the perp isn’t revealed until the end – Littlejohn has a lightbulb moment of sorts and then the killer is arrested.
Somehow, both the novellas do not seem to have the usual Bellairs charm. The quirky humour and weird characters are all there. Take Eliza for example. She oinks and grunts, mainly because she’s a pig and oinking and grunting is what pigs do! In no way is Eliza connected to the murder but this tiny (unwanted?) detail did bring an essence of quirky humour to the story. If you have read any book in this series before, you would be familiar with Sergeant Cromwell. The cheeky fella is quite a romantic at heart. The inclusion of how he met the future Mrs Cromwell makes you go aww (a little, not much).
This seemed to be a better story than when compared to The Dead Shall be Raised. The tension and suspense keep the reader hooked on to the story. PC Mellalieu is quite a character and so is his ahem, bossy wife.
If you haven’t read any of Littlejohn novels before, I do not recommend you to start with this one. The eye for detail and quirky humour sprinkled all over is what makes these novels a charming read but at the same time, it might not be up to everybody’s liking. I am hoping to read a few more Littlejohn novels before the end of 2019. Fingers Crossed!!
Second Opinion: Aidan @ Mysteries Ahoy!
Writing Style: 4/5
Character Development: 3.5/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Title: The Dead Shall be Raised and Murder of a Quack (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #4-5)
Author: George Bellairs
Re-published on 10th December 2016 by The British Library
Genre: Crime Classics
Featured Image Credits: Goodreads