Book Review: Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs


Title: Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs

Rating: 4 stars (🌟🌟🌟🌟)

Publisher: British Library Classics

This was a great village mystery and I'm so glad for the British Library Crime Classics including it in their reissues because I can't imagine I'd have come across it any other way!

The village of Hilary Magna has a grisly murder on its hands. The titular busybody is Miss Tither and a more disagreeable woman would likely be difficult to find. She's made everyone else's business hers and also was on a one-woman crusade to rid the village of any ills she rooted out. At long last, she's found concussed and drowned in a cesspit. A grisly end. So it falls to Scotland Yard's Inspector Thomas Littlejohn, Sergeant Cromwell and P.C. Harriwinckle to investigate and find out the Why and Who did the deed. There is no shortage of suspects and that made for a good read.

I won't spoil the solution but it came together so well and provided a fun puzzle to try and solve along with the investigators as the story went along. Additionally, I very much cared about how things resolved for some of the villagers and was glad there's a bit at the end sharing that. Points also for some very memorable names used: Ethelred Claplady and Athelstan Wynard. And honourable mention to all the meals recounted, from the cringeworthy chitterlings P.C. Harriwinkle favours to roast beef, roast pork, various dumplings, suet and Yorkshire pudding, a fine repast was had by many.

I so enjoyed this and at the end of the book, there's a little biography of George Bellairs and a mention of his website. I signed up for a newsletter & even got a free book download of his Corpses in Enderby (book 22 in the series featuring Inspector Littlejohn), so I'll definitely be reading that.


Favourite passages:

"Miss Tither was a campaigner as well. Her weapon was her tongue, which she used like a pair of bellows, fanning a spark of a whisper into a consuming fire of chatter, a holocaust of pursuing flame."

"Carradine, the Coroner, is in a rare temper about another inquest in Hilary Magna. He detests the place for some reason and seems to think the natives are doing it on purpose to spite him."

"Mr. Crabtree's father, an ex-member of the Trentshire Yeomanry, had desired for his son a high army rank which his means were inadequate to procure. He, therefore, gave him Major as a Christian name, by which he had been known all his life, except during a spell as a conscript in the army, when he ordered to assume the name of Wilfred by an outraged sergeant-major."

Summary: The eponymous nosy parker in Death of a Busybody is Miss Ethel Tither. She has made herself deeply unpopular in the quintessentially English village of Hilary Magna, since she goes out of her way to snoop on people, and interfere with their lives. On being introduced to her, the seasoned reader of detective stories will spot a murder victim in the making. Sure enough, by the end of chapter one, this unpleasant lady has met an extremely unpleasant fate. She is found floating in a cesspool, having been bludgeoned prior to drowning in the drainage water.This is, in every way, a murky business; realising that they are out of their depth, the local police quickly call in the Yard. Inspector Thomas Littlejohn, George Bellairs' series detective, arrives on the train, and in casting around for suspects, he finds that he is spoiled for choice. The amiable vicar supplies him with a map showing the scene of the crime; maps were a popular feature of traditional whodunnits for many years, and Bellairs occasionally included them in his books, as he does here.

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