The Tormentors, George Bellairs
This is an Inspector Littlejohn mystery, published in 1962, I liked the Isle of Man setting for the book. A respected old man is apparently stabbed to death outside a pub. A teddy boy is suspected (naturally; they were the bogeymen of the day) but the local police and Littlejohn, who is on holiday on the Island, are not convinced. The focus of the enquiry is the house where several members of the same old family have lived for years. They own many valuable antiques and a priceless collection of porcelain, which they make no attempt to protect. Some of the porcelain has disappeared: an inside or an outside job? And how can it possibly be connected with the murder? This was the first book I’d read by Bellairs and it was quite a good read.
Keep it Quiet, Richard Hull
Richard Hull enjoyed putting a quirky twist into his stories; I’d previously enjoyed his Murder Isn’t Easy. What I liked about this book is that it’s set in a pretty closed community, a second-rate club called the Whitehall. The club secretary is a hapless type, always being criticised by the members for perceived failings in the running of the club. Then an unpopular member is found dead in an armchair. Natural death? The poor old secretary thinks possibly not (for quite a good reason) and makes the foolish decision to ‘keep it quiet’. He gets a doctor member of the club to sign a death certificate without a PM and thinks that’s the end of the matter. Poor man! From that moment on he is tormented by anonymous letters from someone claiming to know all and threatening worse things to come if his instructions aren’t followed to the letter. The twist is that just over half way through the book we learn who the blackmailer is and how a malign, murderous mind works. Intriguing.
Operation Pax, Michael Innes
This is the outstanding book, which I could hardly put down. It’s an Inspector Appleby mystery and, unusually for Innes, is a real page turner. The first section deals with a petty criminal who finds himself kidnapped by a mysterious outfit in a remote country house. His flight is really exciting and, although he’s just a nasty little villain, you want him to escape. The action then moves to Oxford. Our villain is spotted several times by a group of bright and enterprising children (obviously from the Dragon School) and also bumps into Jane Appleby, who is the Inspector’s much younger sister. Jane’s fiancé is missing and it turns out he’s not the only one. Clues begin to point to that mysterious house. Operation Pax turns out to be a massive plot against the entire world, obviously run by a clever mastermind. To be honest, Appleby does very little detecting; he’s just useful because of his many contacts. The real work is done by Jane, accompanied by a taxi driver called Remnant who turns out to be not at all what he seems but a fearless tough guy (swoon!) and by the clever children. All does not end well for everyone and I would have liked some of the loose ends tied up but this is a really good read.
The Case of the Murdered Major, Christopher Bush
Yet another unread book found in my iBooks library! Luckily, this is just the weather for reading light crime. I’d previously read Murder at Fenwold and Dancing Death. I see I enjoyed the former and gave up on the second. I liked The Case of the Murdered Major better than either of the other two. The Second World War has just broken out and Ludovic Travers, having done his bit in ‘the last show’, is appointed adjutant at a POW camp. His life and that of everyone else in the camp is made hell by the bumbling, fussy ways of the commandant, the murdered major. There are other mysteries, like the apparently changing number of prisoners and the presence of a British secret service officer amongst the prisoners. No one can get into the camp so is there a traitor about? Travers doesn’t do much detecting; it’s his old friend George Wharton of Scotland Yard who works it all out. I liked all the detail about the army and how the camp was run, which we can be sure was accurate.
This book was sent to me by Dean Street Press.