Dead March for Penelope Blow by George Bellairs (1951)

Miss Penelope Blow efforts to see Inspector Littlejohn at Scotland Yard are thwarted when her nephew Harold arrives and forces her to Nesbury. When Littlejohn learns that her visit came at the recommendation of Littlejohn’s old friend, the Vicar Claplady, he it must have been important. But before he can seek her out Miss Blow falls to her death from her bedroom window. The inquest rules it an accidental death, but Littlejohn has questions—like why did Miss Blow insist on seeing him, and was her death really an accident?

Bellairs has again written an engaging story with a well-constructed mystery for Inspector Littlejohn to solve. There is murder, potential poisoning, possible embezzlement, suspicious wills, and just a little bit of madness. I’ll be the first to admit that Bellairs’ puzzles are usually fairly simple. His murderers don’t jump out at you at first, and I usually always find that the solution comes to me fairly easily. But here he has written a mystery, filled with subplots (see above) and red herrings, that is just intricate enough to keep you guessing—for a bit.

One of Bellairs’ great strengths is his ability to create diverse and well-drawn characters which is on show here. In addition to the quiet and cowed Penelope, we meet a host of unlikable characters in the highly dysfunctional Blow family, including Penelope’s sister, Honoria, her nephews, Ralph and Harold, and Ralph’s wife Leonore. Then there are the servants, Minshull the housekeeper, Frazer the cook, Jelley the footman, and Mrs. Peevey the charwoman, all of whom are happy to assist Littlejohn with his investigation. Oh, and we are even treated to a reunion with the Reverand Claplady and Sergeant Harrywinckle (whom we first met in Death of a Busybody). 

And it goes without saying that the dialogue is very well written. Bellairs gives us the usual humor and often snarky wit, as well as sharp comments on class consciousness, and lovely moments regarding opportunities missed.

I can usually always depend on Bellairs for a light-weight mystery that makes for an entertaining and fun read—and this was no exception.

Prior Rulings – Rekha @ The Book Decoder, Kate @ Cross Examining Crime, Anjana @ Superfluous Reading

Vintage Mystery Extravaganza—2015 Bingo—Read one book with a woman in the title 

4 thoughts on “Dead March for Penelope Blow by George Bellairs (1951)

  1. Anonymous

    This is one of his books which I haven’t yet read. I’m a big fan of George Bellairs though. I recently visited the George Bellair site supported by the estate of the writer and have become an advance reader of the republished novels. This will be very much fun. My favourite though is his book Bones in the Wilderness. The Case of the Famished Parson took up some time also. I read it twice., once immediately after the other. For me, re-reading is like hearing music a second time. Why not?

  2. Anonymous

    This one sounds interesting, particularly if it has a slightly more complex plot than is normally the case. I have a copy so I will push it a little higher on the TBR pile!

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