Death of a Busybody (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #3) by George Bellairs

A classic crime novel that brings back the flare of the golden age of detective literature. A quick, pleasant read.

In a small English village, Miss Ethel Tither is the most unpopular lady. Set deeply in her religious ways, she makes it her mission to know everything about everyone. However, before she can open her mouth too much, she appears murdered. When attempts in solving the case came out blank, the local police is forced to reach out to Scotland Yard that sends Inspector Littlejohn to crack the case. Who in the village was desperate enough to shut the busybody up permanently and why?

I can’t say I knew the author when I requested the book but I did a little research. George Bellairs was a classic crime author that wrote detective stories in from the 40s to the 70s. He is best known for the adventures of Detective Inspector Littlejohn stories. Poisoned Pen Press started re-issuing old crime classics and I’m very glad they did. “Death of a Busybody” is the third instalment of the series. The vintage touch to the story is amazing and refreshing to read.

The style line is quite simple and the mystery is relatively easy to solve. All the clues are there to be openly picked by the reader and the slow pace of the story gives enough time to digest everything. At the same time, there are a few twists and surprises that add something extra to the story. In the end, the case closes very nicely and all loose ends are tide. Additionally, the author tells the reader about the fate of certain characters which gives a very nice touch and depth to the story.

The settings are the typical small villages in the country with the typical country style and people. The love for gossip, the criticism and the fake smiles give off the feeling that not everything or everyone is what they seem. Bellairs takes his time to present it and bit by bit reveals more about its inhabitants, but on the contrary of what one might think, the more you think you know, the less you actually know.

The style of writing is compelling and captivating. I got a bit lost in the midst of all the dialects and typical small town phrases but still, it added charm and made the story and its characters more real. The author did a great job in adding lightness to very serious situations.

There are many small clues like black-out curtains on the windows, petrol shortages, land girls doing jobs on the farms and some mention of rationing, but rationing had not reached the extreme levels which later years made necessary. There is a tea shop which specializes in all sorts of sweets and there is definitely no shortage of sugar at this point. There also is not a single mention of fighting on any front and that is quite at variance with most mystery novels set in this time period.

“Death of a Busybody” was a fun, quick read with unexpected twists and memorable characters. I recommend this novel to all the fans of classic detective stories!

Thank you NetGalley, the publisher Poisoned Pen Press and the British Library Crime Classics, for allowing me to read and review a digital copy of this book.

4 Stars

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