Updated: May 22, 2019
"The black sheep of the family gets himself murdered and all the respectable ones start to shiver in their shoes ... " - George Bellairs. A Knife for Harry Dodd
I'm so pleased that I discovered George Bellairs (a bank manager and crime writer!) and his detective Inspector Littlejohn through this upcoming reissue from Agora Books. The twenty-first of Bellairs' Littlejohn novels, A Knife for Harry Dodd is a thoroughly enjoyable, twisty puzzle of a book.
The story kicks off right with the proverbial knife for Harry Dodd. Late one night, Harry Dodd calls his mistress, Dorothy Nicholls, from the phone box in the village to let her know he's ill and needs a ride home. She and her mother rush out - with some general confusion, as neither Dorothy nor her mother knows how to drive - to find Harry. They discover he's been stabbed, and by the time they get him home, Harry is dead.
There are a large number of suspects - Harry's brother, a prominent politician. His two respectable-seeming sons and one respectable-seeming daughter and her respectable-seeming husband. His estranged ex-wife. The mother of a love child. A disgruntled business partner. His father. As Chief Inspector Littlejohn and his factotum Cromwell dig deeper into what Harry was up to in the last few months before his death, they realize they have to move quickly to find a ruthless killer ... because now other bodies are starting to pile up.
A Knife for Harry Dodd throws in just the right amount of red herrings, with a well-earned resolution that let me very pleased - I did figure this one out, but only after a couple of false starts, which is my favorite kind of mystery. Bellairs's writing is wryly funny and he wrote with a pleasant, if fairly terse, style. This is simply a classic, old school British mystery of the 1950s from an author who deserves to be widely read - or reread - today, particularly for an fan of the Golden Era of detective novels looking for another author to plow through.
In summary: Four Sherlocks. Best enjoyed in your local country pub with a pint of bitter or orange juice, depending on your personal preferences.
Reminds me of: Cyril Hare.
I received a pre-release copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.