Title: Death Drops the Pilot (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #25)
Author: George Bellairs
First published in 1956; reprint by Agora Books on 24 December 2020
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
Death Drops the Pilot is a brand new reprint by Agora Books and was released in December 2020. I am a huge fan of Bellairs’ Littlejohn mysteries and it goes without saying this book is simply fantastic! Be it the setting or the wacky characters and equally wacky names, leave it to Bellairs to cook up a humorous mystery that leaves you chuckling till the end.
On a twilit autumn night, the Falbright Jenny is ferrying passengers back to Falbright from Elmer’s Creek when she runs aground. The captain of the ship (Pilot in this case) is nowhere to be seen. His body is found below the pier, with a stab wound to his back. The local bobbies are clueless so Inspector Littlejohn and Sergeant Cromwell are called in to investigate.
First things first, as I was writing this review, I realized Mrs Letty Littlejohn is nowhere mentioned in the book. Our dear Thomas is very devoted to his wife and when he’s away on a case, he always makes it a point to make a phone call to her before retiring for the day. Oh-hum! Anyways…
Bellairs’ novels are all about quirky characters and their quirky names. In Death Drops the Pilot, we have Superintendent Lecky, Inspector Silence (who, as his name suggests, is a silent chap), Mr Bacon (not crispy, thankfully!) Detective Constable Powdermaker (makes an appearance in the latter half of the story), Jumping Joe (he’s a tramp, not a jumper) and Mrs Iremonger. Now, Mr Iremonger nicknamed his wife Little Chickabiddy. The name stuck and she insists on calling her nothing but Chickabiddy.
Stop calling me Mrs Iremonger. Call me Chickabiddy. We’re friends, aren’t we?
From wartime secrets to local liars and extra marital affairs, Death Drops the Pilot is sure to keep the reader hooked on to the story until the end. Not to forget, a dash or two of humor keeps you giggling. Call me Chickabiddy. We’re friends, aren’t we?
The mystery surely keeps one guessing till the end. It is not until the last chapter that we are told of the identity of the murderer and the real reason for committing crime. Littlejohn gathers the suspects around – the press is having a field day, the next morning’s papers would be filled with photographs! – and points out the murderer. Poirot, you better watch out buddy!
Littlejohn’s sidekick, Robert Cromwell, also plays a major role in unearthing clues. The duo are, no doubt, one of the best sleuthing pairs. I would also like to point out that apart from the murder mystery, Bellairs concentrates on the (not-so) normal lives of the villagers, the country-side setting and much more. These additions make his novels a fabulous read. I have read almost 30 of his books so far and except for one, I have liked them all.
If you are a Bellairs fan (you better be if you are my friend!!), you will love Death Drops the Pilot. If you are new to the series, Death Drops the Pilot can be your first (but not the last) Bellairs read.
Second Opinion: Kate @crossexaminingcrime
Many thanks to George Bellairs Estates and Agora Books for the ARC.