The Case of the Famished Parson by George Bellairs (1949)

On the night of September 4ththe Bishop of Greyle left The Cape Mervin Hotel and never returned. The next day, his emaciated body is found dead in Bolters Hole. Luckily an overworked Inspector Littlejohn is in residence, vacationing with his wife Letty, and the local constabulary are only to glad to have his help. Soon, Littlejohn…and Cromwell of course…are tracking the clues. Who would want to kill the Bishop, and why? Could it have been another of the guest’s, one of his very queer family members, or someone totally unknown? And most interestingly, why was the Bishop so emaciated…”just a bag of skin and bone.”?

This was a good read, but of the Littlejohn series I’ve read so far, not my favorite. That’s not to say this wasn’t a good book, because it was (with a caveat or two). The plot was original and has complexity to it, with a number of red herrings, and quite a twist at the end. As usual, it is Bellairs gift for characterizations, imagery, and a modicum of mocking wit that pulls me in and keeps me reading. His has an ability to give life to a story with vivid description and sharp prose – “Mrs. Dyson-Forbes was taking tea with three other women…Their eyes were all over the place, sizing up the women, watching the men…Now and then they called each other darling, smiled or looked poisonous as the talk flowed on.”

I do wish we had seen more of Letty Littlejohn. The times she appears on the page are few, but each is worth noting. Much like the relationship that Littlejohn has with Cromwell, there is warmth, humor, and regard between them. Maybe in some of the other books she will reappear. 

My only real quibble with the book was regarding some of the red herrings that were dropped in, then just forgotten, or openly discounted almost soon as they’re mentioned. It’s as though half-way through, Bellairs decided to switch the plot, and didn’t feel like cleaning up the previous distractors that he’d planted. 

While not an entirely satisfying read, I still recommend this one…especially to anyone who loves Bellairs.

My Judgement – 3.75/5

My thanks to for the ebook made available for my review.

Prior RulingsRekha @ The Book Decoder

3 thoughts on “The Case of the Famished Parson by George Bellairs (1949)

  1. Thanks for the mention, Laurie. 🙂 This is the first Bellairs book that I read. You are right – a Bellairs fan must not miss this book. Giving it a thought now, I guess Famished Parson was not as good as some of the other Littlejohn series that I have read so far.

      1. The first time I read his book, I was like ‘why didn’t I read this before??’ I guess all Bellairs fans would have said the same when they came across his book for the first time. ☺️

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