The Crime Classics Review Club introduced me to George Bellairs and I like his books well enough to have ordered a couple from the library. Death Spins the Wheel is set on the Isle of Man, where yet again Inspector Littlejohn is conveniently taking a break. An elderly Frenchwoman, Madame Garnier, visits the Isle of Man to gamble at the new casino. Then she’s found on the beach, shot dead. At first it seems the murder must be something to do with her successful gambling method but the trail leads Knell and Littlejohn to France, to investigate events in Vichy France in 1944. This is hardly successful police procedure as various people eventually tell them what they want to know but the mystery of the disappearing Frenchman and the affairs of the Garnier family keep up the tension. I’m always interested in novels which lead back to the war and I enjoyed this one.
I was full of praise for Operation Pax but thought A Private View was less successful. A young artist is found murdered. Two valuable paintings are stolen from a stately home. Sir John Appleby and his wife Judith visit a private view of paintings by the late artist. Somehow, these events are connected and it’s quite a puzzle to see how everything fits. What put me off the book was that Sir John and his wife seem to take leave of their senses. On the very same evening, each does some private investigation which puts them in serious danger. I couldn’t believe that a sane, intelligent woman (especially one with a baby at home), would go poking around dark corners of London at night and alone. Of course, neither can contact the other so Judith doesn’t even have the comfort of hoping that her husband will rescue her. She does find out a lot of useful information which will help to fit together the pieces of the puzzle but Sir John’s activities are nothing but reckless derring-do. All the real police work is done by Appleby’s trusty deputy, Cadover, a very impressive chap. The best thing in the book is a long nighttime car chase through the English countryside, with Judith in a dream-like state. My favourite character was the down-to-earth Duke of Horton, owner of the missing paintings. I read this as a member of the Crime Classics Review Club.