Title: The Cursing Stones Murder (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #23)
Author: George Bellairs
First published in 1954; republished by Agora Books on 12th May 2017
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers; Mystery Classics (British)
While scallop dredging off the Isle of Man, the Manx Shearwater drags up a body. The victim was bashed in the head and his trousers filled with stones so that the body would sink to the bottom of the ocean. Who would be sinister enough to commit such a horrible crime?
The victim is identified as Cedric Levis, a ladies man. Be it a married woman or not, Levis seduced them all. Fenella Corteen was one of Levis’ woman until she found herself preggers with Levis’ baby; Levis refused to make a honest woman out of her. Fenella’s brother Johnny is arrested for killing Levis. Johnny’s mother reaches out to Archdeacon Kinrade.
Kinrade asks Littlejohn to unofficial assist with the murder investigation. Mr and Mrs Littlejohn were looking forward to a vacation in the vineyards of France but Isle of Man sounds good too. So off they go, with Meg (their dog) to the island to solve the case.
First things first, I have to mention a thing or two about the recurring characters here. Meg, the Littlejohn’s dog first appeared in Death of a Busybody. In fact, it is in this story that Littlejohn decides to adopt the poor dog. In the Cursing Stones Murder, we are told about the special bond Thomas Littlejohn shares with Meg.
Then comes Letty Littlejohn. She needs no introduction. Mrs Littlejohn is very supportive of her husband’s adventures. At times, they discuss the case in hand and Letty’s known to be a good listener. In Cursing Stones Murder, there is a scene where Letty wants to tag along with her husband when he decides to go in search of a clue in the middle of the night. Not just that, Letty is good at making friends so she helps in gathering clues. (People do not open up to the Scotland Yard man as much as they do with Letty.)
Archdeacon Kinrade made his first appearance in Death in Dark Glasses. This book was preceded by Half-Mast for the Deemster so there is a mention of it in this book.
Cedric Levis was not a likable man. At least not in Peel and Grenaby where he was notoriously known for philandering. When Inspector Perrick hears of Littlejohn’s arrival, he’s a little shaken. Littlejohn convinces him he’s unofficially investigating the case as requested by his dear friend Kinrade.
As the story proceeds, we see Littlejohn, with the help of Kinrade and Letty, learn more about the victim. Levis was going around with a married woman; did her husband kill Levis in a fit of rage? The list of suspects’ is long but Littlejohn is at crossroads when he realizes most of the suspects are withholding crucial information. There comes a time when he almost gives up, but thanks to Letty’s encouragement, Littlejohn decides to continue the investigation.
As is the case in most of Bellairs’ novels, the emphasis is not only on the investigation but also on the scenery. You are in for a visual treat (imaginative) of Isle of Man. Littlejohn’s sidekick Cromwell is roped in halfway through the story – unofficially. (Remember, Littlejohn is on a vacation). A few developments in London takes the case a little further.
The identity of the killer was no shocker. At around 80% through the story, we are told of the killer’s motives. The dramatic events leading to catching the killer was certainly the best part of this story. (If you are a Bellairs fan, you surely know how most of his stories end. This book was no different.)
The Cursing Stones Murder was an entertaining and enjoyable read. The mystery behind the murder kept me hooked to the story until the end. The pacing was a little slow but to be honest, who cares? It’s a Bellairs novel, for god’s sake. The beauty of his writing lies in the tiny details that has nothing to do with the mystery. Not to forget, the tinge of quirk and humor rises the enjoyable factor by a notch.
If you are new to Bellairs works, maybe this is not where you must start. Try one of his earlier works. If you are a Bellairs fan and a complete-list addict, I am pretty sure this book will be on your TBR. 😀