On a stormy night in Enderby, someone shot Ned Bunn. Considering that Ned was a very nasty individual, the list of suspects is a long one. Was it the the suitor who Ned had warned to stay away from his daughter? Or Mr. Hetherow, who threatened to kill Ned for taking his business from him. Or maybe it was one of the plethora of Bunn’s who had no use for him other than his money. The local Chief Constable wants nothing to do with it, so Inspector Littlejohn and Sergeant Cromwell of the Metropolitan Police are brought in to investigate.
The story was very entertaining, and I really enjoyed this one, but I think it was more because of the style. It has the sharp dialogue and sometime harsh characterizations that Bellairs is known for. While the plot is fairly simple, there are several good red-herrings. It is light on suspense, but I liked how Littlejohn and Cromwell uncovered just that little bit more of information with each encounter. It was much like a “real” police investigation where multiple pieces have to be fit together in order to reveal the culprit. It was interesting that Bellairs gives us a glimpse into the future of the investigation in the passage “the drama Littlejohn was to watch for some days to come and which, according to some, was to terminate in his worse failure.” Like any true Golden Age Mystery, all of the clues are there for you to solve the crime. I will admit that while I knew the who and the why, this is one where I did not anticipate the ending.
Bellairs is excellent at setting the tone for his mysteries with his vivid descriptions of surroundings and characters, and this book is a great example of that. Everything comes across as quite dark and gloomy. The weather is rainy, Enderby is dull and drab, and the homes are shabby or squalid. With few exceptions, the characters are an unsympathetic, unpleasant, and obsequious lot. And while there are quite a number of characters, for me each added richness to the story. The Bunn family and “its ramifications” alone allowed Cromwell “to enjoy himself among this galaxy of queer characters.”
I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a good mystery, but be warned, if you haven’t read anything else of Bellairs, don’t make this the first one.
My thanks to georgebellairs.com for the ebook made available for my review.
My Rating – 4/5