More from the British Library Classic Crime series and more from this author who I discovered last year. Delightfully old fashioned, the inspector catches the bus to appointments, uses the telephone to ask for information and, even more daring, occasionally uses a fax machine (but only in the later novels). I really enjoy them and I do like Inspector Littlejohn with his pipe smoking sensible character - he is a bit Inspector Wexford, a bit Lewis and I think he is lovely.
The British Library have issued two stories in one volume here so you are getting good value for money. The Dead Shall be Raised is set in the winter of 1940. The Home Guard discover a skeleton on the moor above the Yorkshire town of Hatterworth where Inspector Littlejohn is staying with his wife as guests of the local police superintendent. An earlier crime had taken place in exactly the same spot and when this body is identified as a man who has been missing for years and assumed to be the murderer, then it is clear that the murderer is still at large.
When the body is discovered a performance of the Messiah is taking place at the Chapel, it being Christmas, and Inspector Haworth, a fine bass baritone as well as being a policeman, is performing. A message regarding the discovery of the body is sent to him via a local constable "Now don't go and upset him in the middle of Why do the Nations but give it to him as soon as you can"
When I reviewed my first Bellairs book I sprang to the defence of the author who has not been regarded as a great writer, and I daresay he isn't, but he has a warmth about his narrative and description which I find rather endearing "As the lovely overture filled the air, Littlejohn was transported from the hall filled with strangers to the little chapel of his childhood. In his mind's eye he saw the singing pew filled with old familiar old faces; many now long dead, the amateur organist with his work cut out in keeping up with the choruses....the unpretentious but worthy soloists. The ghost of Christmas Past stood by his shoulder.....there was not a vacant seat in the church, the walls streamed with moisture and the place was like an oven. The chapel-keeper opened one of the doors leading from the vestibule into the main street and the exquisite aria floated out into the still Christmas night and seemed to ring across the moorland beyond. "Every valley shall be exalted" echoed challengingly in the quiet hills and valleys"
Now I think that is rather lovely. Don't you?
I read this story when lying on a sun bed on a beach on tiny little island off the coast off Fiji with the sun blazing down, glorious blue sky and turquoise sea in front of me and this description of the chapel and the Messiah reminded me of home and I thought it was beautifully done.
The second story in the volume The Death of a Quack tells of a local bone setter, not a qualified doctor but who has a large practice in Norfolk. He is found hanging but from examination of the body it is soon clear that it is a murder disguised as a suicide.
Not one of this author's best I feel and yet it has its own charm as we meet all the local villagers, including a drunk doctor who is losing his patients left right and centre to the so called Quack, and who is clearly top of the list of suspects, but in Bellairs books there are always eccentric and odd local worthies who all have a motive as well one way or the other.
Two books well worth pursuing. I always link to my earlier post on Bellairs when I review a new title as I really do want you to check him out and see what you think and with the British Library producing a publication with one of its delightful covers then really what are you waiting for?
Bellairs has written dozens of books featuring Littlejohn so I know I have many more happy hours ahead of me.