Title: Death in the Wasteland (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #39)
Author: George Bellairs
First published in 1963
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
Death in the Wasteland is the 39th book in George Bellairs’ Chief Inspector Littlejohn series.
Thomas and Letty Littlejohn are on a holiday in France. Littlejohn had arrived for a police conference and when his good friend, Inspector Dorange of the Surete at Nice insisted they spend some time at his parents’ villa in Vence, the couple readily agreed.
Dorange is a bachelor and lives with his parents. His father is a wholesale grower of roses and carnations and their villa is in the midst of gardens bathed in the fragrance of flowers. Letty and Dorange’s mother had gone on a shopping expedition, Dorange on duty and his father tending to the flowers. Littlejohn is lazying around when he receives a phone call. It is from a man named Waldo Keelagher.
He’s currently at the police station in Cannes as his car is stolen. But that’s not the problem. Uncle George had died this morning so Waldo and his wife put Uncle George’s body in the boot of the car and drove to the nearest police station to report his death. And now, the car is stolen… along with Uncle George’s dead body. The Cannes police seem to be amused of an Englishman who’s claiming to have lost the car and a dead body. Could Superintendent Littlejohn come over and help?
Of course, Littlejohn would help. Waldo is Inspector Robert Cromwell’s cousin. Waldo and his wife are released on bail and Littlejohn is asked to babysit them. The case soon shifts back to England where Uncle George spent all his lifetime… and turns out, Uncle George was no saint…
After having read over 30 Littlejohn novels, I suppose I have reached a stage where Uncle Littlejohn and Grandpa Bellairs are like family to me… Ahem! 😉
The story is peppered with and had me giggling at the quirky doings of the characters.
The French police have difficulty pronouncing Keelagher. So Waldo Keelagher becomes “Valdo Kaylayjay…” As the search for George Keelagher’s body continues, the french policemen rename the case as “The Case of Uncle George.”
Then there is Superintendent Flight of the fraud squad. He cannot abide hot weather and is found in his dusty room wearing only shirt and trousers. His shoes and braces are kept aside. He even tells Littlejohn that if it were decent to do so, he would work stark naked. He just cannot tolerate the hot weather! Hmm!
I cannot not tell you about the mysterious (and hilarious) circumstances that led to the disappearance of Uncle George’s dead body. Waldo and his wife woke up at 9am and found Uncle George lying on the ground outside their caravan. They knew he was dead. Their caravan was in the middle of nowhere and instead of calling the police, Waldo decided to take Uncle George’s dead body to the nearest police station in Cannes. They reached the station all right, and went in to complain. When they returned, the car was missing… and Uncle George’s dead body was in the boot.
Since Cromwell is closely related to the victim, Littlejohn calls him up to inform of the case and of course, continue the investigations from England. Cromwell visits Uncle George’s house and offices in Great Missenden. He learns that not all was well in Uncle George’s stock-broking business. Littlejohn is forced to travel to Great Missenden.
He’s not complaining though. It’s been quite some time since Cromwell was promoted as Inspector and they haven’t worked together since. When they meet at the airport, Littlejohn asks him about promotion. Cromwell responds by saying he wishes he was still a sergeant so that he could spend time with Littlejohn. Aww!!!
There’s a twist halfway through. The French police had already declared that Uncle George did not die under circumstances. So, who would have wanted to kill him? The answers lie in Great Missenden.
This was an enjoyable and entertaining read. I loved the mystery, the humor and quirky characters. Lots of red herrings so do yourself a favor and don’t try to play detective. Leave it to the best to solve this case!
Well, what are you waiting for? Go on, Chop chop. Add this book to your TBR and read it right away!
Sounds good fun. I definitely need to read more Bellairs soon.
Yes!!! I recommend some of the earlier ones in the series.