George Bellairs

George Bellairs

George Bellairs, a pseudonym for Harold Blundell, was a prolific novelist whose writing career stretched from 1941 to 1980. His writing style, even in his later books, evokes the Golden Age of Detective Fiction and most of his mysteries can be categorized as police procedurals.

Most of Bellairs’ crime novels feature his series detective, Inspector Littlejohn. Travel is a recurring theme in these stories and often he finds himself investigating in an informal capacity, either on the Isle of Man or in France during his vacations.

Many of these novels have come back into print in recent years or are available as ebooks and with such a large number available it can be difficult to know where to begin. While I have only read a small portion of his work, I would suggest A Knife for Harry Dodd and The Dead Shall Be Raised as good starting points, the latter being released in a double-bill British Library Crime Classics edition along with The Murder of a Quack.

Thomas Littlejohn

Littlejohn on Leave

Littlejohn #1

Littlejohn, on sick leave, wakes when an alarm-bell is sounded at a local bank. The owner is found dead under the counter, killed with his own knife.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Four Unfaithful Servants

Littlejohn #2

Four separate cases of embezzlement across the country end with the thieves dead. Littlejohn is brought into the case when the father of one of the victims calls Scotland Yard and points to a common denominator.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Death of a Busybody

Littlejohn #3

An elderly spinster who is viewed as a judgmental pest is found drowned in the vicar’s cesspit.

Unfortunately wit and investigation structure were unable to overcome my frustrations with the story drawing too much attention to one of the most important clues or with the mangled attempts at replicating country voices in prose.

Read the review here

The Dead Shall Be Raised

Littlejohn #4
Also known as Murder Will Speak

Littlejohn happens to be in the area visiting his wife for Christmas when a body is discovered of a man who disappeared over twenty years earlier having been believed to have murdered one of his colleagues in a dispute over a woman’s affections.

This book is not just a good character study or travelogue but a fascinating case with some solid complications, interesting investigative techniques and a very clever solution.

Read the review here

Murder of a Quack

Littlejohn #5

A village’s “quack” bonesetter is found hanging from one of the contraptions he uses in his cures.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

The Case of the Seven Whistlers

Littlejohn #6

A woman purchases an old chest in the window of an antiques store and opens it to find the body of one of the two owners inside.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Calamity at Harwood

Littlejohn #7

After years developing a property a rumor spreads it is haunted. Late one night the developer is seen to be dunked in a pond, supposedly by ghosts, before being thrown down a flight of steps a short while later.

Though Calamity at Harwood is not the best example of a traditional detective story because of some aspects of its storytelling that emphasize moments of revelation over deduction, I do think it is a very competent thriller and builds to a solid and entertaining conclusion.

Read the review here

Death in the Night Watches

Littlejohn #8

A factory boss smells has and when he investigates gets trapped inside a shed where he dies.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

He’d Rather Be Dead

Littlejohn #9

A mayor who has put his town on the map through bribery and extortion drops dead in the middle of a civic lunch. He was poisoned but everyone ate and drank the same things.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

The Case of the Scared Rabbits

Littlejohn #10

A wealthy and autocratic canon is murdered at the county fair.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

The Crime at Halfpenny Bridge

Littlejohn #11

Sailors witness a murder committed on a bridge by the beam of a lighthouse.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Death on the Last Train

Littlejohn #12

A man who ran a building society that crashed taking its customers’ savings with it is found dead on a train.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Outrage on Gallows Hill

Littlejohn #13

A poet is garrotted at night while on his way to meet his lover.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

The Case of the Demented Spiv

Littlejohn #14

A factory manager is found dead in the factory wearing greasepaint.

While I think the book never really pulls off any surprises in its situations or characterizations, it executes its plot and character development well.

Read the review here

The Case of the Famished Parson

Littlejohn #15

While on holiday Littlejohn is brought into the case of a bishop found dead at an isolated spot near the seashore.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

The Case of the Headless Jesuit

Littlejohn #16
Also known as Death Brings in the New Year

At the stroke of midnight a man stumbles into the church having been stabbed with a German prisoner’s knife.

[A] disappointing novel that has some great ideas and themes but never manages to balance them. It’s certainly very readable and entertaining in places but it is hard to overlook a weak investigative narrative.

Read the review here

Crime in Lepers’ Hollow

Littlejohn #17

While on holiday Littlejohn is drawn into a local case when a judge is found murdered in his home.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Dead March for Penelope Blow

Littlejohn #18

An elderly woman makes several calls at the Yard to speak with Littlejohn but he is away on a case. When he returns he learns she has died from a fall from her bedroom window.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Death in Dark Glasses

Littlejohn #19

Investigations into a small-scale embezzlement spiral when the bank learns another account was emptied with forged paperwork. When Littlejohn tries to track down the victim he finds a dead body.

…Bellairs’ approach of carefully setting up each development means that there are relatively few moments in his story that could constitute a surprise to the alert reader.

Read the review here

Half-Mast for the Deemster

Littlejohn #20

Littlejohn investigates the murder of the most senior judge on the Isle of Man.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

A Knife for Harry Dodd

Littlejohn #21

Inspector Littlejohn is asked to investigate the death of Harry Dodd, a man who was discovered stabbed in the back when apparently on his way back from the pub.

I have often remarked on how one of Bellairs’ greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to create credible characters. This skill is once again clearly in evidence here not only in the array of suspects he presents us with but in the character of the victim himself who really looms over this whole narrative.

Read the review

Corpses in Enderby

Littlejohn #22

Ned Bunn is murdered on the doorstep of his own shop in the village of Enderby.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

The Cursing Stones Murder

Littlejohn #23

A fishing boat off the coast of the Isle of Man dredges up a trussed body weighed down with stones. The victim, a wealthy philanderer, was clearly murdered and Littlejohn is once again called into the case to assist by his friend Archdeacon Kinrade.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Death in Room Five

Littlejohn #24

Littlejohn, on vacation in France, is called to the deathbed of Alderman Dawson who had been stabbed.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Death Drops The Pilot

Littlejohn #25

Littlejohn is called to investigate the death of a ferry pilot who is found dead when the boat runs aground.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Death Treads Softly

Littlejohn #26

A man disappears from the Isle of Man and turns up in London with no memory. Littlejohn takes him home but learns he was murdered just a day later.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Intruder in the Dark

Littlejohn #27

A man inherits a home from his wealthy aunt but before he gets her fortune he is found dead in the cellar.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Death in High Provence

Littlejohn #28

Littlejohn is approached by the British Minister of Commerce whose brother had died in a car accident in Provence. The Police quickly ruled it an accident but the Minister feels that something is suspicious and wants some answers.

The opening chapters are certainly atmospheric and establish a sense of obstacle but Bellairs takes too long to begin moving his narrative forward, leaving little room for the meat of the mystery. 

Read the review here

Death Sends for the Doctor

Littlejohn #29

A doctor is found dead inside a secret room in his home.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Corpse at the Carnival

Littlejohn #30

A man walking along the pier looking at the sea collapses. A knife wound is found in his back.

The result is a story that I found more interesting on a social and character level than in terms of its investigation. 

Read the review here

Murder Makes Mistakes

Littlejohn #31

A man is shot in an isolated village in which the only person he knew was already dead.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Bones in the Wilderness

Littlejohn #32

A shady antiques dealer travels to France but disappears. Some time later his bones are discovered in the wilderness of the Carmargue.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Toll the Bell for Murder

Littlejohn #33

In the early hours of the morning a vicar violently rings the church bell and is found praying over a corpse that was shot in the head. He had the gun next to him and refuses to speak in his own defence.

It is quite leisurely paced and some will be frustrated by the focus drifting away from the investigation.

Read the review here

Death in the Fearful Night

Littlejohn #34

A man is found dead in his home with a knife in his back – the third murder of that type in as many weeks. Does a serial killer stalk the streets of Carleton Unthank?

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

The Body in the Dumb River

Littlejohn #35

A man was stabbed and dumped in a river but the body is discovered early when it is washed up in a torrential flood.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Death of a Tin God

Littlejohn #36

Littlejohn is summoned to the hotel where a movie idol is staying. He has been found dead in his bath, electrocuted by an electric razor that fell into the water. It appears a tragic, if careless accident except that he had received a shave only a few minutes before retiring for his bath…

Only for Littlejohn completists and even then this is a long way down the list.

Read the review here

Death Before Breakfast

Littlejohn #37

A woman hurrying to church finds a body in the gutter. Frightened she hurries on but returns when her conscience gets the better of her to find that the body is gone.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

The Tormentors

Littlejohn #38

On the Isle of Man a man is found violently stabbed and a young boy is accused of murder.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Death in the Wasteland

Littlejohn #39

A caravan trip goes awry for Waldo Keelagher when his unbearable stockbroker uncle joins them but a short while after arriving in France he finds his uncle dead.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Death of a Shadow

Littlejohn #40

During an international conference in Geneva the detective hired to protect the British minister of security is found murdered in a car hired by Littlejohn.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Surfeit of Suspects

Littlejohn #41

An explosion occurs in the offices of the Excelsior Company, killing three members of its board who were having a late night meeting inside. When it is discovered that dynamite was to blame so assuming foul play, the local police send for help to the Yard.

The novel’s title points to its greatest problem – with so many suspects, few are established well enough to be taken seriously and neither the questions of how or why are interesting enough to make up for this.

Read the review here

Death Spins the Wheel

Littlejohn #42

An elderly woman has a great run of results at a casino and is found shot dead on the beach hours later.

I found it to be an entertaining and quick read and I did enjoy the way the tale draws on what was then recent European history as background for the case.

Read the review here

Strangers Among the Dead

Littlejohn #43

A bank manager disappears and the safe is found empty. Six years later his murdered body is found in an old tomb.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Death in Desolation

Littlejohn #44

Police are called to an isolated farm to respond to a fire and find a dead man and his unconscious wife.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Single Ticket to Death

Littlejohn #45

A business tycoon about to make big changes to his company and homelife is found murdered on a roadside in France.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Fatal Alibi

Littlejohn #46

Littlejohn investigates the murder of a travelling salesman on the Isle of Man.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Murder Gone Mad

Littlejohn #47

Littlejohn receives a request from the widow of a man he has never met to attend his funeral. When he learns that the deceased’s last words were to send for Littlejohn, he travels to France to learn more.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

The Night They Killed Joss Varran

Littlejohn #48

A criminal is murdered on the day he s released from prison on the Isle of Man.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Tycoon’s Death-Bed

Littlejohn #49

An electronics tycoon is found murdered in his deluxe hotel suite.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Pomeroy, Deceased

Littlejohn #50

An English physician has been acting strangely having moved to France and started running with a bad crowd. He is found dead in a hospital n Cannes.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Murder Adrift

Littlejohn #51

The philandering son of one of a prominent family is found murdered on his boat.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Devious Murder

Littlejohn #52

Littlejohn stumbles upon the body of a thief he crossed paths with several times while walking his dog.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Fear Round About

Littlejohn #53

A retired county coroner who had inherited a tumbledown manor house is found battered to death.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Close All Roads to Sospel

Littlejohn #54

While on holiday, Littlejohn gets involved in the case of a disappearing tour driver and conductor.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

The Downhill Ride of Leeman Popple

Littlejohn #55

A disgraced former mayor is found floating in a canal.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

An Old Man Dies

Littlejohn #56

A spate of seemingly disconnected deaths frighten the residents of a town.

I have not yet read or reviewed this title.

Standalone
Turmoil in Zion (1943)
Murder at Morning Prayers (1947) (as by Hilary Landon)
Circle Round A Corpse (1948) (as by Hilary Landon)
Officer That’s Your Man! (1948)
Choose Your Own Verdict (1949) (as by Hilary Landon)
Exit Sir Toby Belch (1950) (as by Hilary Landon)