Chief Inspector Littlejohn #18,#35 by George Bellairs

Dead March for Penelope Blow

Since I was on a roll, I thought I would tackle multiple Bellairs that I had on my shelf.

The narrative begins with an intriguing premise. Penelope Blow has been trying to meet Inspector Littlejohn, unsuccessfully. She paints a very pitiful picture and definitely evoked my sympathies. The author conveys the sadness around the figure as well as the desperation quite clearly. The reasons for the situation are kept hidden from us for longer than I had the patience for (in these kinds of stories that is a good thing). Penelope comes from an influential family but holds no sway over anything that happens in the house. She meets an untimely death that is quickly brushed aside.

When Littlejohn comes to the scene, he feels responsible for not being available when he was most needed and does not think things are as simple as everyone wants to make them seem.

This begins a very underhanded investigation with side commentary on the people involved. This latter part is what holds the book together. The plot itself has a surprising twist (more than one) which worked well, but the subtle humour in the way an ‘ordinary’ person is viewed is the highlight. I chuckled aloud to myself a couple of times with some of the character introductions. Overall it is a satisfying read because you feel like you spent your time well. There is good entertainment wrapped around a mystery that you may or may not have solved if you were paying attention.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Body in the Dumb River

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This is a much later book than the others I have read of the series but worked well too.
It jumps right into the plot with the literal surfacing of a dead body. This is of a man known to work in the fairground, but it turns out that that is an alias. This leads to a family of nagging women and high expectations where one’s name comes with a tag. If I had read such a situation elsewhere, I might have been offended by the extremely despicable women being shown here. The balance was restored by the way the author talks of the woman who one would ordinarily categorize as a villain but was depicted in a very flattering light.

The geographic location of the investigation is limited, as is the suspect pool. Given the sequence of events, it is not very probably for a reader to arrive at an accurate conclusion. Despite that fact, it does not feel like we are being cheated. The descriptions of the people as cuttingly observant as usual, which helps add to the atmosphere. I must admit I found it a quick read which did help my reading mood in general.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I would recommend both these books to people who like old classic mysteries with a dash of humour.

I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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