Title: Toll the Bell for Murder (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #32)
Author: George Bellairs
First published on 1 January 1959; republished on 29 July 2016
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
The curraghs (a stretch of marshy waste ground) in the Isle of Man are usually silent after dark. The inhabitants of Mylecharaine are woken up by a loud explosion followed by violent ringing of the church bells.
The local vicar, Sullivan Lee, is arrested for the murder of Sir Martin Skollick. Martin was a womanizer and was known to have dilly-dallied with many young ladies – put one in the family’s way too. What did the vicar have against him? Archdeacon Kinrade summons his old friend Superintendent Thomas Littlejohn to the Isle of Man.
“What queer goings-on! After years and years of peace and quiet and nothing much to relieve the monotony, suddenly drama and mystery had invaded the little place. Real murders and a London detective. Things you read about in paper-backed novels which visitors brought for rainy days and left behind.”
Toll the Bell for Murder is the 32nd book in Chief Inspector Littlejohn series. Littlejohn is a Superintendent now. 😀 (Yay!) When his dear friend Archdeacon Kinrade asks for his help, Littlejohn wouldn’t want to miss a chance of going to Isle of Man.
Archdeacon Kinrade has appeared in a handful of novels. Inspector Knell (reappearance) also plays an important role in the story. In The Cursing Stones Murder, we saw Knell on the way to his honeymoon with the missus. In this book, we are told Knell is now a father of four.
The quaint yet quirky setting, quirky characters and a murder mystery that leaves the villagers baffled are the strong points of this story. The victim was hated by many, he has ruined a lot of lives – not just a womanizer but also stubborn pain-in-the-neck who loved to harass others. The news of a London detective from Scotland Yard has already made its way through the curraghs. People are eager to see how soon the London detective would solve this case.
In the process of gathering clues, Littlejohn stumbles across an old Manx tradition that has brought many to justice.
“It’s well-known that if a man’s murthered (Manx for murdered) and the one that has done it is made to touch the corpse, the dead will bleed from the mouth and nose.”
I don’t think Littlejohn ever used this technique in catching the culprit…
The setting – Isle of Man – is a little personal to the author. After his retirement, Bellairs spent the rest of his years at Isle of Man. The reappearing characters add a touch of ‘homely feeling’ to the story. When one is so invested in the series and the characters as I am, one is bound to enjoy every little detail. 🙂
I have read almost 20 books in this series so far so if I have to compare the plot of Toll the Bell for Murder to the other books, I would say this was a little sketchy. The events leading to discovering the dead body was a mess – the vicar has gone bonkers, people are shouting and everybody’s making a scene.
If you are not new to the series, you would know Cromwell. Well, I was a little disappointed with Toll the Bell for Murder because not does Cromwell not appear in the story, there is no mention (at all) of the poor chap. Not even a mention!! Tsk tsk! Disappointed!
The ending was okay-ish, a little dramatic for my taste. The identity of the killer was a surprise but the ending did not do justice. The murderer’s accomplice (SPOILER) was am imbecile! Ugh! There also seemed to be some amount of beating around the bush and this dragged the story a tad. If you are looking to complete the series, read this book. If not, you can push it down your TBR.