Title: The Case of the Demented Spiv (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #14)
Author: George Bellairs
First published in 1949; re-published by Ipso Books on 5th Dec 2017
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Sammy Judge barges into a pub and demands a strong drink. A local policeman on beat enters the pub and calls Sammy a spiv.
“Spiv… Yes, I am a spiv. That’s what they all say. They stop in the street and shout it after me. Well, they’re right. I am a spiv. I’m a spiv… spiv… spiv…”
He then claims to be innocent. He did not kill the man who’s presently lying dead in Fennings’ Mill. The bobbies bundle Judge up, take him to the station, and is sent to an asylum later on. Out of curiosity, they pay a visit to Fennings’ Mill and find Ambrose Barrow dead on the floor. What is surprising is the ‘get-up’ he’s found dead in.
On further investigation, it is found that Ambrose Barrow was stealing from his employers. It’s been a month since Barrow’s body was found and Judge hangs himself. The media claims justice is served – Judge had a guilty conscience and killed himself.
“The Chief Constable, almost as demented by events as the deceased spiv, sent for Scotland Yard.
We all know who was sent from Scotland Yard, don’t we? Our very own Inspector Thomas Littlejohn. As Littlejohn arrives at the station, he meets Inspector Faddiman on the local police. Faddiman asks Littlejohn not to look around as there is a woman following them. The woman in question is Mrs Barrow. She insists that Littlejohn must stay at her place; Littlejohn politely refuses. She finally pesters him and invites him for dinner – the juicy steak she brought this morning mustn’t go waste, you see!
Inspector Littlejohn starts his investigations, only to realize that people can’t, and won’t tell the truth.
I suppose there is a first for everything. I have read almost ten books in the Littlejohn series so far and The Case of the Demented Spiv is something that I didn’t enjoy much. The quirky characters and their quirky doings – where are they in this book? Where??? I am not saying that the quirk factor was totally absent in the story – that’s never possible! But, the humorous bits were more like, haha! (imagine Sheldon Cooper saying this).
Plot to Story Development
Poor Littlejohn is out of clues. To add to his woes is the rickety bed at the inn he’s staying in. The suspects seem to have alibi. Not just that, they either won’t or cannot reveal their secrets. Now tell me, with so much going on, how can the poor chap solve a murder?
The mystery isn’t all that great. The reader is given a clue that the murder had something to do with Mrs Barrow’s ‘affairs of the heart’. Someone who’s supposed to help Littlejohn with the case is hiding things too – he’s afraid of something so you cannot really blame him. But then, this is a murder investigation for god’s sake!!
I do not know if it should be called red herrings but Littlejohn is in for a ride. A ride that ends badly – he’s left with no proper clues. He’s directed on the wrong path many a time, not purposely, though.
I do not want to say much about how certain number of characters play a major role in the story because that would meaning revealing some major spoilers. The Fennings are a weird lot. The love affairs they have, my, my! – I found their ‘affairs’ funny at times.
Since this is one of the earlier books in the series, Littlejohn is treated like trash. Okay, not exactly trash but I do not like it when people shoo him away! He’s Littlejohn!!! One of the best detectives out there. You can’t just say ‘Get out!!’ to the guy! Hmph!
Lettie (Mrs Littlejohn) and Cromwell do not appear in the story – maybe a mention or two, at the most. Cromwell is busy with cop killings in London so Littlejohn investigates the Barrow murder case alone. Inspector Faddiman, the local bobby, plays quite a role. Poor fella, he was openly insulted by one of the suspects – Scotland Yard men have better experience at solving cases than local police. Such an insulting thing to say!
If you have read any of Bellairs’ books, you would know that most of the times, the killer dies in the end. That is not the case in this book. Thank goodness! The bugger is wounded but nothing serious.
Overall, The Case of the Demented Spiv is an okayish read. I didn’t find it entertaining but okay, once in while, Littlejohn’s adventures can be boring! If you haven’t read any of Bellairs’ books before, I do not recommend you to start with this book. Go with something like The Case of Seven Whistlers or Murder of a Quack and Dead shall be Raised.