Title: Death in High Provence (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #27)
Author: George Bellairs
First published in 1957; republished by Agora Books on 2 May 2016
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
Chief Inspector Thomas Littlejohn is sent to France to make informal inquires on a motor accident that killed an Englishman and his French wife. At St Marcellin, the sleepy French village where the Englishman and his wife met with their deaths, Littlejohn learns the villagers are being secretive. They are puppets in the clutches of a powerful man named Marquis.
The night Thomas and Letty Littlejohn reach the village, a baker tries to talk to Littlejohn about the accident. Few hours later, he’s almost killed. Littlejohn rescues him but the next day, the baker vanishes. Another villager tries to talk to Littlejohn about the accident and is sent away from the village that same afternoon. The news of Letty and Thomas enquiring about the accident reaches Marquis.
Death in High Provence is the 27th book in Chief Inspector Littlejohn series by George Bellairs. This is a new favorite in the series. I absolutely loved everything about this book – the plot, the characters, the setting and my, oh my, instead of Cromwell, we have Letty assisting Littlejohn in the case.
We also get to see Inspector Dorange of Nice, Sûreté. Though he’s not formally assisting Littlejohn in the case, they go together to interview a suspect. But other than that, Littlejohn is on his own for most of the story. Of course, we have Letty stumbling across a clue or two.
Thomas Littlejohn is a favorite and it was annoying to see how the villagers of St Marcellin were obstructing his every move. Humph! Littlejohn knows he’s on the right track when the baker is attacked. There’s more than jealousy or revenge involved here. Many had a hand in writing the deaths of the two people as an ‘accident’. The local priest, doctor and the policeman – all claim it was an accident. And the ones who say otherwise disappear.
The mystery behind the murders was well-maintained until the end. The identity of the perp remains a mystery until the end – most of Bellairs novels are inverted mystery-ish in the second half. The reason, like I said before, was more than just jealousy or revenge. A little messy to understand but I suppose that is what made the ending interesting.
If you are a Bellairs fan and haven’t read this book, I want you to drop whatever is in your hand and rush to grab a copy of Death in High Provence. (Just saying, if you drop something expensive, I am not responsible…) If you are new to the series, you can give this book a try. After all, my first Bellairs read was The Case of the Famished Parson and I consider myself the biggest fan of Bellairs. 😀