I am kickstarting the Bellairs Birthday Special month with a list of my favorite books in the Chief Inspector Littlejohn series.
George Bellairs is the pseudonym of Harold Blundell, a bank manager turned hobbyist writer. Harold worked as an air warden during the war (WW2) and in his spare time, wrote and published his first mystery novel – Littlejohn on Leave. Littlejohn on Leave introduces Thomas Littlejohn, an inspector at the Scotland Yard. Strong characters, a dash of humor and small communities – set in the 1940’s to 1970s – Bellairs’ Inspector Littlejohn soon gained fame.
Littlejohn reminds you of your favorite (maternal) uncle. Loving, caring and soft-spoken, Littlejohn is not your usual pipe-smoking detective in a dark coat. If he has to travel out of London on a case, he makes it a point to call back to London every single night – to talk to his dear wife, Lettie. If the case permits, he takes Lettie along, While on a case, Thomas Littlejohn rescues the victim’s dog Meg and takes it home to Lettie. In few of the latter books, we learn the Littlejohns and Meg are inseparable.
Thomas Littlejohn is seen with his side-kick Robert Cromwell. Cromwell is a sergeant at Scotland Yard and is known to assist Littlejohn on many cases. He never leaves London without his elephant of a suitcase – one will find skulls, stones, law books and everything else in his suitcase. Like Littlejohn, Cromwell is also a family man. He has four daughters and is known to write letters everyday (while away on a case) to his oldest daughter.
Murder isn’t funny business but Bellairs’ specialty is in bringing a dash of humor to a murder mystery. Set in a quaint village where everybody knows everyone, Littlejohn and Cromwell find it challenging to pin-point the murderer. Unlike Poirot who uses grey cells or Holmes who uses tobacco and disguises to solve crimes, Littlejohn believes in chit-chatting with the villagers. He’s invited at the pub to ‘ave a drink or two, invited by the locals for a cup of tea and some ‘omemade cake – Littlejohn has his way to gather clues.
Death of a Busybody, third book in the series, is about the gruesome murder of a nosy parker, Miss Ethel Tither. Head bashed and left to drown in a cesspool, Miss Tither certainly had a painful death. When Littlejohn arrives at the quaint little village of Hilary Magna, he realizes he’s spoiled for choice – the local vicar (Reverend Claplady) supplies him with a map showing the scene of crime and the local bobby Harriwinckle is eagerly waiting to impress the Scotland Yard man.
The Dead Shall be Raised is the fourth book in the series and is published as set of two books – along with Murder of a Quack.
In the winter of 1940, the Home Guard unearths a skeleton on the moor above the busy town of Hatterworth. Twenty-three years earlier, the body of a young textile worker was found in the same spot, and the prime suspect was never found—but the second body is now identified as his. Soon it becomes clear that the true murderer is still at large…
The Case of the Seven Whistlers is the sixth book in the series.
A cozy English hamlet is thrown into an uproar when one of the antique dealers is found dead in a chest bought by Miss Adlestrop. The local constabulary is overwhelmed and Detective-Inspector Thomas Littlejohn is called to investigate the crime. Things aren’t easy for Littlejohn as the key to the chest goes missing and the villagers are infested with jealousy and secrets.
Calamity at Harwood is the seventh book in the series.
Solomon Burt, a property lord at Harwood is killed. He is found at the bottom of the stairs with his neck broken. Minutes before Burt’s death, he was haunted by poltergeists. Detective-Inspector Thomas Littlejohn is called to investigate the “ghostly” crime.
Death in the Night Watches is the eighth book in the series.
At the height of WWII, Thomas Littlejohn investigates the death of a factory boss. Henry Worth owns a textile factory but since the start of the war, the space is given to military production. One night, Henry smells gas coming from an unused shed and walks in. He’s found dead a few minutes later by the night watchman.
He’d Rather be Dead is the ninth book in the series.
The Mayor of the popular resort at Westcombe, Sir Gideon Ware, is notoriously known for making enemies. When he falls dead at an annual lunch event, no one is surprised to hear he’s murdered. With a long list of suspects, Littlejohn has a tough time narrowing down the list and bringing the killer to justice.
Crime in Lepers Hollow is the seventeenth book in the series.
Detective Inspector Littlejohn was supposed to be on a holiday but is drawn towards a peculiar case. He soon finds himself caught up in a network of family intrigue involving hate, deception and murder.
Dead March for Penelope Blow is the eighteenth book in the series.
In the wake of Mr William Blow’s death, his surviving relatives find themselves tangled up in family secrets and financial mystery. So when Miss Penelope Blow suddenly dies by falling out her bedroom window, suspicions are raised. With Scotland Yard under pressure to determine the widow’s fall was really accidental, Inspector Littlejohn is called in to get to the bottom of the case.
A Knife for Harry Dodd is the twenty-first book in the series.
When Harry Dodd calls Dorothy Nicholls for a ride home from the pub, she and her mother think he’s just had too much to drink. Little do they know that he’s dying of a stab wound to the back. By the time they get him home, he’s dead.
As Littlejohn starts to investigate, he learns he has more suspects than he can handle. There also seems to be another murderer on prowl…
Death Drops the Pilot is the twenty-fifth book in the series.
On a twilit autumn night, the Falbright Jenny ferries passengers from Elmer’s Creek to Falbright. But instead of making it across the river, she ends up marooned on a sand back. The skipper is missing. A few hours later, his body is found floating under the pier – stabbed in the back. The local authorities call Scotland Yard for help; Littlejohn and Cromwell are sent to investigate.
Death in High Provence is the twenty-seventh book in the series.
Against the background of fascinating Provence, a fantastic case is solved. Chief Inspector Littlejohn is sent to France to make informal enquiries about a motor accident. But his job is not easy, for he finds himself amongst the sombre, secretive inhabitants of St. Marcellin, a dying French village in the mountains of High Provence. Dominated by the aristocratic Monsieur le Marquis, the village obstructs his every move. But they had under-estimated the kindly, courteous Littlejohn.
Death Sends for the Doctor is the twenty-eighth book in the series.
Doctor Beharrell, a prominent physician, is found murdered in a secret room in his home at Bank House and Superintendent Littlejohn, warned before it has been discovered that the crime has been committed, goes to investigate.
Murder Makes Mistakes is the thirtieth book in the series.
Robert Cromwell is in Rushton, attending his uncle Richard’s funeral when he gets shot in the head. Littlejohn rushes to Manchester (where Cromwell is being treated) first and then stays at a local inn at Rushton. He wants to know who tried to harm his colleague. As Littlejohn starts to investigate, he doubts if Richard’s death was natural or if he was murdered.
Death in the Fearful Night is the thirty-fourth book in the series.
Superintendent Littlejohn arrives in the village of Carleton Unthank to investigate a triple murder that has left the town crippled with fear. With the threat of another murder looming, Littlejohn must catch the killer before the body count rises any further.
Note: I will be adding more books to the list as and when I read (and like) them.