I continued my investigation into the works of George Bellairs and his detective Chief Inspector Littlejohn by reading The Cursing Stones Murder (Gifford, 1954), the book immediately following the one I reviewed a few weeks ago, and found it more to my liking, as it is more of a classic police procedural.
While scallop dredging off the coast of the Isle of Man, a boat drags up the body of a well-known philanderer along with its catch. The philanderer was believed to be in Europe, hence no one noticed his disappearance a month or more earlier. Inspector Sid Perrick fastens his suspicions on Johnny Corteen, the brother of one of the many women who had been wronged by the victim. While Corteen can’t produce an alibi for the estimated time of death, no one thinks he is capable of killing someone in cold blood either. The area church leader Archdeacon Kinrade invites Chief Inspector Littlejohn on a long overdue visit to informally investigate the crime. He does not want to cross the local police by officially requesting the assistance of Scotland Yard but thinks Littlejohn can quietly poke around a bit and get Corteen out of jail, thereby helping Corteen’s long-suffering mother.
Littlejohn has a lot to work with, the victim had antagonized anyone with an attractive wife or daughter, as well as the wives and daughters themselves. In this particular story, his investigation sidekick is the Archdeacon rather than Inspector Cromwell, his usual partner, although Cromwell shows up late in the story. In addition, Inspector Perrick is a little sensitive about Littlejohn working on his case, but recognizes Littlejohn’s seniority and position, and insists on conferring with him daily to learn what Littlejohn has found out and his suggestions for further research.
Littlejohn brought his wife and the family dog with him on this trip and they add interest and depth to what would otherwise be a straightforward police investigation. Bellairs describes the Isle of Man, where Bellairs himself relocated, as an exquisitely beautiful place, although the dangers men who make their living from the sea are also fully and terribly portrayed, with a September gale wreaking havoc at the end of the book. I am quite impressed with Inspector Littlejohn and I can see I need to keep reading the series. For fans of British detective procedurals.