Title: Death Sends for the Doctor (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #28)
Author: George Bellairs
Reprint published on 9th January 2018 by Ipso/Agora Books (First pub. 1957)
Genre: Mystery Classics
Superintendent Thomas Littlejohn receives an anonymous letter about a murder which occurred in Caldicott on Friday. It’s been just three days since Littlejohn was promoted so whoever sent him the letter was up to date with the latest news.
Littlejohn calls the Chief Constable at Dufford and the chief in turn gives Sergeant Plumtree of Caldicott a call. Plumtree is furious as he hasn’t heard of any murder in his area. Off he goes on his usual rounds. Dr Beharrel has movers at his place. The doctor’s mother had died days ago and her furniture was being moved to his place. The movers finish their job and are chomping on sandwiches when they hear Dr Beharrel’s housekeeper scream. The movers and Plumtree go to her rescue. She takes them to the doctor’s bedroom. She talks about the secret door behind the wardrobe; she moved the wardrobe to find the door open and… Guess who was lying dead there? Dr Beharrel! Littlejohn and Cromwell are called in to solve the case.
Chief Inspector Littlejohn series is my all-time favorite mystery classics series. I have read 15 of Bellairs books until now (Death sends for the Doctor is my 16th) and I haven’t been disappointed so far. Bellairs is one of the most versatile, master storyteller. Nobody writes like Bellairs! His works are beyond comparison! Okay, I guess I must keep my Littlejohn/Bellairs obsession in check. 😛
First things first, look who’s gotten a promotion?? Our very own Thomas Littlejohn! He deserves it, all right! He’s the best detective in Scotland Yard! Sergeant Cromwell is married and has a couple of children(all girls). He’s very fond of the oldest daughter, who is currently six years old and writes to her father everyday. Aww! How sweet of her! No wonder he calls her sweetheart. Lettie is in London and the Littlejohns have a dog. Thomas calls his wife everyday – love forever and all that…
The house Dr Beharrel lived in was an old bank building. The bank closed ( went bankrupt) and the Beharrels bought the building. The strong room in the basement was unused while minor changes were made in rest of the building.
Dr Beharrel had seen his set of tragedies. He married a woman who was twenty years younger than him. (Mrs Trott, the housekeeper says it is not natcherall for a couple to have a huge age difference) He was obsessed with his wife and ended up keeping her at home at all times – like a bird in a cage. Then came a young R.A.F officer and rescued her from the wrath of a possessive and jealous husband. But things didn’t end well for the eloped couple. They were shortly killed in the London Bombings. Dr Beharrel was left nursing his wounds for life.
The husband-wife went on vacations and that didn’t change once the wife left him. Dr Beharrel went on vacations alone until a burglary attempt in 1948. The doctor turned jumpy and refused to leave his house. There were three burglary attempts from 1948 to 1950, the last one a month before his death. What was the doctor hiding in his house? The burglar was only interested in the strong room. Why?
Death Sends for the Doctor is a new favorite in this series. We have the love angle, a jealous husband, a well-hidden secret and a cold-blooded murder. The story revolves around the doctor’s house, lawyers, his dead wife and her admirers. Of course there is good ol’ sleuthing. Littlejohn and Cromwell make quite an excellent sleuthing pair. They are friendly with the suspects and sit down with them, drinking beer or tea and chit chat. (Digging for more information)
Inspector Dorange makes an appearance in the story. We saw him in Calamity at Harwood. While Cromwell and Littlejohn are on their way to Caldicott in the train, Cromwell mentions the Enderby case. Dr Beharrel’s father was a bone-setter. The last time a bone-setter was mentioned in a Littlejohn story was in Murder of a Quack.
The other characters in this story include the Hopes (a weird couple), Dr Macfarlane (Beharrel’s assistant), Vincent and Sam Pochin(lawyers) Giles Brodribb (Mrs Beharrel’s brother), Lydia and her father Canon Horninglow, Gibbet and Gralam.
Lydia’s dark and hurtful past comes into picture and provides some clues in taking the case further. Littlejohn and Cromwell first meet Vincent on their way to Caldicott(in the train). The Hopes have an Inn and that is where the Scotland men stay. Also, Hope was the doctor’s chauffeur. His wife was rumored to be the dead doctor’s mistress. I know right, too many love angles here! Wait until you hear the number of admirers Grace Beharrel had. The whole town was in awe of her beauty!
Littlejohn solves the case all right. But this time, the denouement is done Poirot style – unlike in the other books of this series where the culprit is identified halfway through the story. Loads of suspects (suspects, suspects, everywhere!) and red herrings are sure to send the reader on a wrong path. Of course, the readers are not Littlejohn so they are bound to go on the wrong path…
Death Sends for the Doctor is surely one of the best in the Littlejohn series. A lot more different from books (in this series) I have read so far. If you are Bellairs fan, I know you will read this book. If you are new to this series and want to give one of Bellairs books a try, I recommend you start with one of the earlier ones in this series.
Featured Image Credits: Goodreads