Title: Dead March for Penelope Blow ( Chief Inspector Littlejohn #18)
Author: George Bellairs
First printed in 1951; reprinted by Agora Books on 13th August 2020
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
Agora Books is back with a reprint of my favourite author, George Bellairs. This time we see Penelope Blow coming over to London in search of Inspector Thomas Littlejohn. Sadly, Littlejohn is away on a case and Ms Blow leaves him a note. But things go awfully wrong and Penelope falls to her death from her room window.
Littlejohn returns to Scotland Yard and is given Ms Blow’s note along with a newspaper cutting of her ‘accidental’ death. Littlejohn is curious – why did Ms Blow want to visit him? Ms Blow was referred to Littlejohn by his friend Rev. Claplady of Hilary Magna. When Littlejohn reaches the village, he unearths certain clues that points to Penelope Blow’s murder.
First things first, two of my favourite characters make an appearence in this story (they first appeared in Death of a Busybody). We see Rev. Ethelred Claplady, a religious figure, a good friend of Littlejohn and keeper of bees. When I say Hilary Magna, there is another person that comes to mind. Our very own Sergeant Harrywinckle. (Yes, Winckle. It’s not a typo). ‘Arrywinckle’s missus would be more than happy to ‘ave Littlejohn and Claplady over for lunch. uh-hu.
So, Ms Penelope Blow falls to her death while watering the daffodils on the window sill. The inquest determines it to be an accident and so be it… No, no, that doesn’t sound right. Littlejohn learns of Ms Blow’s sister Honoria’s arsenic poisoning. Did Penelope catch the perp red-handed?
The local deputy Chief Hempseed is a jolly good fellow. But sadly, his ‘jolly’ is watered-down with a bout of Lumbago. His doctor cannot visit him regularly as he too is down with Lumbago. Oh-hum! Like doctor, like patient! But Paston, the local bobby assists Littlejohn and Cromwell. Hempseed pitches in his opinions too. All this while the chief is in London with ‘is family.
As is the case with any Littlejohn series, this book is, no doubt, a fun read. Bits of humor bring a refreshing touch to the story. We have (weird) characters with their weird doings. Mr Jelley is the Blows’ butler. But don’t go by his name, this chap is smart – no jelly legs. He and ‘is two ladies (the house helps) have set up a court-of-sorts in the kitchen. Tea and thick slabs of fruit cake, please.
The mystery is pretty solid. It’s not just the red herrings but we see the weirdo Blow family up to some parlor tricks. Abracadabra! Not really… they don’t pull out bunnies from hats.
Dead March for Penelope Blow is a little different from the usual Bellairs style. Did I tell you how much I enjoyed reading this book? The ending was really, like really, really good. I thought the identity of the killer was served to me on a silver plate. And voila! No bunnies here! Littlejohn ended up solving more than one mystery.
Since George Bellairs is my favourite author and Littlejohn is my favourite detective, it’s no doubt I would recommend you to read this book. Hu Hu Hu, go on, read it.
Many thanks to George Bellairs Estates and Agora Books for the ARC. This is my honest and unbiased opinion.