Title: The Case of the Seven Whistlers (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #6)
Author: George Bellairs
Re-published by Mysterious Press on 23rd December 2014 (first published 1940)
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
On a cobbled street, two antique dealers – Grossman and Small – have set up shop – it’s called The Seven Whistlers. Miss Selina Aldelstrop has her eyes set on an antique box which was once owned by a man named Crowen. She goes to The Seven Whistlers, bargains and finally buys the box. She’s promised the box would be delivered to her doorstep.
So, the box finally arrives at the station and the porters have a tough time lifting the stone-dead heavy box. Phew! They dump it at Miss Adlestrop’s house. She’s invited her friends over – after all, she wants to show off the latest addition to her antique collection. The box is opened and Grossman’s in it – dead!
Detective Inspector Thomas Littlejohn is called in. With the help of local constabulary, Littlejohn goes in search of clues.
From mid-December to the first week of January, I have been reading a lot of dull and boring books. It was almost like a jinx that was difficult to break! I was worried that I would go through a reader’s block pretty soon. Speaking of reader’s block, here’s one sure shot solution to get rid of a reading rut or block. Stand on your right leg, raise your right hand and hop around for ten minutes (preferably in circles). Or, if you lazy like me and do not want to try such clumsy tactics, you can choose to read one of Littlejohn series. 😀
Of all the Bellairs’ books I have read so far, I loved The Case of the Seven Whistlers the most. Hilarious. Engrossing. Mind-blowing. Interesting. Wackalicious!
The Case of the Seven Whistlers is one of the earlier books in this series. Thomas Littlejohn is a DI and he’s already famous. There’s this burglar who is waiting to meet Littlejohn! He’s that famous, eh?
The best thing about Bellairs’ books is the characterization. Most of the characters are quirky weirdos who make you ROFL. Take Mr Grossman and Mr Small for example.
Mr Grossman was a tiny man of about five feet two, with small hands and feet and the slim figure and grace of movement of a ballet dancer.
Small was an enormous man with a huge paunch which hung between his knees when he was sitting.
Then comes Superintendent Gillespie. His mood is basically governed by the proper functioning of his liver and gall bladder. A greasy dinner? The next day you will find Gillespie in a stupor. If not, he will make jokes and laugh – hu hu hu. There is this packer who looks like Father Christmas – goes ‘sth sth sth’ after every sentence. Sth sth sth! The assistant at the antique shop is called Mrs Doakes; she’s Mr Small’s niece.
The storytelling is absolutely brilliant. The mystery behind Grossman’s murder keeps one hooked on to the story till the end. The red herrings are sure to take the detective in you on a wrong path. Beware! I was sure that a certain somebody was the killer and then I realized it was a red herring! Hmph!
The antique box is somewhat similar to a Pandora’s box. Opening it revealed not only a dead body but deadly secrets too. The mystery behind the key piqued my curiosity (and Littlejohn’s too). There was just one key to the box. The packing wasn’t tampered with and when the box was packed, it was empty. (Miss Adlestrope had the key.) People saw Grossman get into a train. So how did he end up dead in the box?
Littlejohn let the matter drop for the time being. Gillespie seemed disposed to believe that Grossman had got in the box by a conjuring trick! A sort of Harry Houdini murder!
I was laughing the whole time as I read through. Finding a dead body in an antique box isn’t something that should be laughed about. But the ‘tension’ and the ‘surprise in the box’ was so freaking funny that I couldn’t stop laughing. P.C. Donald Puddiphatt (can’t stop laughing at his name!) and Mr Seth Hale (the undertaker) are discussing something when they hear women screaming. As they rush to Miss Adlestrope’s house, they find women screaming, laughing and crying. Some are on the floor – knocked out cold – the maid is slapping them, ordering them to wake up. Seeing the dead body, our undertaker Mr Hale faints! He’s been taken ill since then. Sth sth sth!
I can go on and on writing about this story. But I won’t – I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the book. If you are familiar with Bellairs’ novels, you would know that most of the ending are okayish. When I say okayish, I mean this – justice is served but not as you expected it to be.
The identity of the killer – I surely did not see that coming! Oh my god! There I was thinking this person was saint-like. Looks can be deceiving, eh? The Case of the Seven Whistlers is, no doubt, one of Bellairs’ best. If you are looking for a Mystery Classics read and/or haven’t read any of Bellairs’ books before, go ahead and read The Case of Seven Whistlers.