Miss Tither, resident busybody of Hilary Magna, knew everyone’s secrets and had no problem bring them to light whenever she saw fit. So maybe it was fate that she was killed by drowning in the vicar’s cesspool? The local police force, being stretched for manpower and inundated with local crimes, needs help and Scotland Yard send “a genial, easy-to-get-on-with feller, a countryman himself.” And so, Inspector Thomas Littlejohn arrives and soon learns that there were few in the village who did not have a reason to kill Miss Tither, it’s just a question of which one did.
If you’ve read this blog at all you probably know that I’m a fan of George Bellairs. Granted, as I’ve stated in the past, there are time when quality of his plot and story-telling wanes. But not this time! This is Bellairs at his best, with a well plotted, fairly presented mystery, and his talent for creating imagery, great characters, and humorous narrative filled with mocking wit on full display.
With the detection being carried out by Littlejohn in Hilary Magna, and by Sergeant Cromwell in London, the police investigation is well developed. Littlejohn’s usual quiet, easygoing manner gains him entry into the village, and the confidence of its inhabitants. Sergeant Cromwell, always an interesting individual, does what he does best by garnering tidbits of information and linking them into a solution. Along the way he heightens the amusement by evolving from Cromwellian to ornithologist.
Bellairs ties the story together with the themes of religion and gossip, using a small village filled with colorful local villagers. We are introduced to the Reverend Ethelred Claplady, encountering “a veritable blast from Gehenna filled with death and corruption” while performing his morning breathing exercises, Mr. Walter Thornbush, self –appointed leader of the Emmanuel’s Witnesses, whose “conversation when not in the form of sermons, is…is one long Psalmody”, and an entire village playing a game of telephone regarding Miss Tither’s death, until by the end the “vicar’s done it”
Death of a Busybody was a fun read with a light-weight mystery and wonderful characters. An early Bellairs that is well worth the read.
My Judgment – 4.25/5
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Calendar of Crime Reading Challenge – April # 9 Church/Minister/Religion has major role