A Bundle of Reviews #11 Or He’d Rather Be A Lepidopterist

He’d Rather Be Dead by George Bellairs (1945)

Over the course of many years, The Mayor of Westcombe, Sir Gideon Ware, has systematically turned what was a quaint little harbor town into a popular resort. His means, which included bribes and intimidation, haven’t always met with enthusiastic approval, and have many people harboring ill-feeling towards him. 

So it’s of no surprise when, in the middle of his speech at the Mayor’s annual lunch, he drops dead. When it’s found that he was poisoned with strychnine, the local Chief Constable calls for Scotland Yard, and Inspector Littlejohn turns up to investigate.

For those interested in stories that build on characters and background, Bellairs is usually a safe bet. He’d Rather Be Dead is filled with Bellairs’s excellent descriptions of time and place. The atmosphere of a gaudy seaside resort with it’s crowds, hucksters, and cheap amusements is extraordinarily well done. Disappointingly, what it lacked were the characterizations and the snarky, witty prose which I’ve come to expect from Bellairs. Also, the addition of the long diary addendums seems unnecessary and rather bizarre.

I’ve quite a Bellairs fan, but I have found him to be a bit hit and miss. While this one just didn’t do it for me, I’ll definitely be reading more.

My Judgment –  3.5/5

Previous Rulings – Kate @ Cross Examining Crime, Rekha @ The Book Decoder, Anjana @ The Superfluous Reader

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza –  2013 Scattergories – #34 Somebody Else’s Crime: Also read by Rekha @ The Book Decoder

Death at Swaythling Court by J. J. Connington (1926)

William Hubbard is not well-liked in the village of Fernhurst Parva. He’s a newcomer who just purchased Swaythling Court, collects butterflies, and sidelines in blackmail. When he’s discovered dead, apparently stabbed by a paper knife, it’s at first thought to be murder. But when it’s found that he actually died from cyanide poisoning, and the knife wound was post-mortem, the coroner’s inquest decides it had to be suicide.

The local squire, Colonel Sanderstead, who along with his nephew Cyril Norton, discovered the body, looks upon his family, and the inhabitants of the village with great fondness, and more than the usual solicitude. So when he learns that Hubbard’s blackmailing touched on individuals he cares for, he continues to look for answers, if only to protect from someone from falling under suspicion. 

This is Connington’s first book in the detective genre, and it’s an entertaining one. There’s a solid murder plot filled with a lot of clues and red herrings—lethal rays, ghosts, tire tracks, motorcycles, buckles, butterflies, guns, broken windows, and partially eaten chicken are only a few—all pointing in different directions. But by holding back some crucial information, as well as the ethical conundrum of the ending, Connington plays a little fast and loose with the aspect of fair play. To give him his due, the Colonel’s views are made quite evident throughout, so the really ending should surprise no one.

Surprisingly, the tone is much lighter than in Connington’s subsequent books with Sir Driffield as the protagonist. Colonel Sanderstead is definitely more of the bluff and blustery type of investigator. Even the confession from the culprit is more of a discussion between cronies, filled with witty banter.

Entertaining and well worth a look.

My Judgment –  3.75/5

Previous Rulings – John @ Pretty Sinister Books, Bev @ My Reader’s Block, Nick @ The Grandest Game in the World 

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza –  2011 Vintage Mystery Challenge – Take ‘Em to Trial:  Book 6 of 16

4 thoughts on “A Bundle of Reviews #11 Or He’d Rather Be A Lepidopterist

  1. Oh if only I could read and review as quick as you lol Though I would probably run out of books… At least it justifies you having a large TBR pile.
    Your Connington review was particularly interesting, as I have only read two by him and have yet to decide whether he is an author for me or not.

    1. Connington is interesting, but not always consistent (at least not what I’ve read of him, which is only 4 or 5 books). I’m still not sure of him either.

      I’ve only three books unreviewed now (YEAH)! My TBR pile has grown because my local library decided to divest itself of many of its older books, selling some ($1 HB, .50 PB!), and putting others in the Little Free Library…hence many of the meh and frankly bad reads lately. And nothing British (gasp!)…except for one sweet little caper-style book from 1936…how it got there is a mystery in it’s self.

      1. They love to sell off their old stuff to raise money. Plus, books that are donated to them aren’t usually placed in circulation, but put up for sale. I need to find an endless stream of British books and that’s not going to happen any time soon.

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