He’d Rather Be Dead is the latest reprint featuring Chief Inspector Littlejohn. It is no secret that I am a huge fan of George Bellairs and Chief Inspector Thomas Littlejohn. I have liked almost all the books I have read so far and He’d Rather Be Dead is definitely one of Bellairs best! No, not best, it’s the best-est!
Kate and I buddy read this book. You can read our spoiler-filled discussion here.
Title: He’d Rather Be Dead (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #9)
Author: George Bellairs
First published in 1945; Reprint by Agora Books on 4th June 2020
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers (Classics)
A fun-filled lunch party that ends with a murder, uh-huh! Sir Gideon Ware is hosting a lunch for his Corporation Officials – the men with whom he’s had a tiff in the past. Never dine with your enemies. Well, this message surely reached Ware late because the poor chap was in the middle of a speech when he dropped dead.
Chief Constable of Westcombe Boumphrey wants to keep his hands clean. The suspects in Ware’s murder include the rich and influential. We cannot have Boumphrey being on their bad side now, can we? So Boumphrey decides to take the help of Scotland Yard. Littlejohn is sent to investigate. Boumphrey washes his hands off(this has nothing to do with the ongoing corona-drama!); Littlejohn wants someone to take him around and stuff so Inspector Hazard is chosen for this task. Hazard dislikes everything about Westcombe, Boumphrey and Ware.
This book is set in the early 1940s. We see a couple of references made to the ongoing war – Herr Himmler, Nazis and rationing. Boumphrey has a ‘weird habit’ of making dossiers (he pronounces it as ‘doshers’) about everyone. When Littlejohn arrives at the station, a new dosher is made – well, Boumphrey must have a file on our dear Thomas! Hmph! Boumphrey’s doshers are supposed to provide Littlejohn details about the suspects. Surprisingly, Boumphrey ‘forgets’ to give Littlejohn Ware’s dosher.
The first twist in the story is when Littlejohn learns Boumphrey hid a vital clue pertaining to the case. The next twist has something to do with Cromwell visiting Follington. (For those who do not know much about this series, Sergeant Cromwell is Littlejohn’s sidekick) No Littlejohn mystery is incomplete without the mention of his darling wife, Letty. Littlejohn also talks about a daughter he and Letty had – the little girl passed away when she was 8.
Coming to the unusual murder method, Bellairs hasn’t experimented with ‘death by poison’. One might say there’s nothing great about Death by Poison but in this case, the ‘unusual’ element is the way in which it was administered into the victim’s blood stream. Leave it to Bellairs to conjure a marvelous murder mystery that keeps you guessing till the end.
Thomas Littlejohn needs no introduction. He’s the best fictional detective of all times. End of discussion! Halfway through the story, readers are made aware of the perp’s identity. Then it all bogs down to Littlejohn proving the motive behind the murder. Also, unlike a few other ‘mastermind detectives’, Littlejohn does not hide the clues he’s found. He believes in sharing it with his colleagues so that solving the crime can be a team effort.
The ending is a little different. The perp is brought to justice – in the usual Bellairs style. Then comes a two-chapter-length ‘autobiography’ written by the killer. This sounded like a complete waste of reading time. Nevertheless, this is a Bellairs novel so I ain’t complainin’. If you are new to the Littlejohn series, you can start with this book. If you are already a fan of Bellairs, I am pretty sure you will grab this book after reading my review. 🙂
Second Opinion: Anjana @Superfluousreading
Many thanks to Agora Books and George Bellairs Estates for the ARC.