If you are a follower of my blog, you would know by now I am a huge fan of George Bellairs’ Chief Inspector Littlejohn series. I have always wanted to do something special on the blog – get in touch with Bellairs fans and ask them what makes Chief Inspector Littlejohn series so special.
Read one of Bellairs books and you will want to read them all. Be it his writing or the quirky characters or the lovely country settings, I don’t think I have come across (nor I will) any author who writes mysteries as good as our dear old Bellairs. A bank manager by day and an author by night, Bellairs and Littlejohn (of course!) have captured the attention of mystery lovers.
I met two lovely people on Goodreads – they have read a couple of Bellairs books and are eager to read the rest of the series. We mystery lovers know how difficult it is, at times, to get a copy of an out-of-print copy of our favorite author. If not for British Library Publishing and Agora Books, Bellairs would have remained a forgotten author for long.
Without further ado, let’s see what my fellow Bellairs fan have to say about the Littlejohn series.
Ivonne Rovira, an ardent mystery lover, talks about her favorite Bellairs novel and how Littlejohn is different from Christie’s Poirot.
How can it be? How can it be that George Bellairs (the pseudonym for English bank manager Harold Blundell) is not better known? He has a talent equal to that of Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham and — dare I say it? — Dorothy L. Sayers. His dozens of Golden Age mysteries, thankfully, are being reissued, but they should never have gone out of print in the first place!
I’ve read most of Bellairs’ novels featuring the intrepid Scotland Yard Superintendent Thomas Littlejohn. Unlike the unrealistic Hercule Poirot, Littlejohn errs and backtracks, and he relies on plodding police work rather than exclusively on “the little gray cells.” But Littlejohn, like Agatha Christie’s other sleuth, Miss Jane Marple, is a great scholar of human nature, which leads to Littlejohn’s insights and flashes of brilliance.
Let’s take my favorite Bellairs novel: Death in the Night Watches. The author manages to take a cliché — a family heatedly divided over a patriarch’s ill-thought-out and petulant will — and fills the book with surprises and quite a few thoughtful observations on life. The cozy’s plot, of course, is excellent; however, it’s Littlejohn’s astute understanding of the human condition that really endeared Death in the Night Watches to me.
It’s the best example of what Bellairs does in all the Littlejohn books. Thank God for Poison Pen Press, which is reissuing each of the Littlejohn novels! How I hope that the public will rediscover a mystery writer shamefully forgotten!
Next, I have JJ telling us what she loves the most about the Littlejohn series. Hint: the setting
I ‘discovered’ George Bellairs novels a few years ago. One of those forgotten crime novelists whose estate was pushing for more recognition, and he deserves all the recognition he can get as far as I am concerned.
He wrote over 50 books most about the cases of Inspector Littlejohn.
I’ve often thought that the towns Littlejohn was sent to were full of characters I would call grotesques. All the foibles and weaknesses, be they mental or physical, are well described. When you do come across characters you like (excluding Littlejohn and his sergeant of course) they are either murdered or the murderer! Makes for very interesting reading.
Quite a few stories are set on the Isle of Man where Bellairs himself eventually settled. You can tell from his description of the island that he loved the place and the people (he’s a bit kinder to the Manx people in his books). Some stories are set in France which he also loved visiting.
I have read about 15 of his books and I can see me happily reading the next 35. Definitely an author worth having a look at.
I definitely agree! Bellairs deserves all the recognition he can get!
If you haven’t read any of Bellairs novels until now, I certainly hope Ivonne and JJ’s words have piqued your curiosity to try one. Believe me, (trying not to copy the tag line from a famous chip company!) you cannot read just one – you gotta read them all!