George Bellairs was the pseudonym of Harold Blundell (1902-1985), a Manchester banker with close connections with the University of Manchester. He was born in Lancashire and married Gwladys Mabel Roberts in 1930. In the late 1950s he moved to the Isle of Man and became a full-time writer. Some of his detective novels are set on the Isle of Man. His series character was featuring Inspector (later Superintendent) Thomas Littlejohn. Many books appear from their titles to have an ecclesiastical theme. He also wrote four books using the pseudonym Hilary Landon.
“One of the subtlest and wittiest practitioners of the simon-pure British detective story,” New York Times
“Sure-fire, that’s Bellairs.” New York Herald-Tribune
Littlejohn on Leave (1941)
The Four Unfaithful Servants (1942)
Death of a Busybody (1942)
The Dead Shall be Raised (1942) aka Murder Will Speak
Turmoil in Zion (1943) aka Death Stops the Frolic
The Murder of a Quack (1943)
He’d Rather be Dead (1945)
Calamity at Harwood (1945)
Death in the Night Watches (1945)
The Crime at Halfpenny Bridge (1946)
The Case of the Scared Rabbits (1947)
Death on the Last Train (1948)
The Case of the Seven Whistlers (1948)
The Case of the Famished Parson (1949)
Outrage on Gallows Hill (1949)
The Case of the Demented Spiv (1949)
The Case of the Headless Jesuit (1950) aka Death Brings in the New Year
Dead March for Penelope Blow (1951)
Death in Dark Glasses (1952)
Crime in Lepers’ Hollow (1952)
A Knife for Harry Dodd (1953)
Half-Mast for the Deemster (1953)
The Cursing Stones Murder (1954)
Death in Room Five (1955)
Death Treads Softly (1956)
Death Drops the Pilot (1956)
Death in High Provence (1957)
Death Sends for the Doctor (1957)
Corpse at the Carnival (1958)
Murder Makes Mistakes (1958)
Bones in the Wilderness (1959)
Toll the Bell for Murder (1959)
Corpses in Enderby (1960)
Death in the Fearful Night (1960)
Death in Despair (1960)
Death of a Tin God (1961)
The Body in the Dumb River (1961) aka Murder Masqerade
Death Before Breakfast (1962)
The Tormentors (1962)
Death in the Wasteland (1963)
Surfeit of Suspects (1964)
Death of a Shadow (1964)
Death Spins the Wheel (1965)
Intruder in the Dark (1966)
Strangers Among the Dead (1966)
Death in Desolation (1967)
Single Ticket to Death (1967)
Fatal Alibi (1968)
Murder Gone Mad (1968)
Tycoon’s Death-bed (1970)
The Night They Killed Joss Varran (1970)
Pomeroy, Deceased (1971)
Murder Adrift (1972)
Devious Murder (1973)
Fear Round About (1975)
Close All Roads to Sospel (1976)
The Downhill Ride of Leeman Popple (1979)
An Old Man Dies (1980)
When an elderly man is found violently stabbed, wallet missing, in an alley way in a small town on the Isle of Man, all fingers point to a local boy.
The victim was well-known on the island and a member of a very distinguished family who are keen to see quick justice.
Anxious that the heightening anger of the Manx people will lead to an unwarranted arrest, the Manx police call in Inspector Littlejohn to investigate.
While the boy maintains his innocence, Littlejohn’s investigations lead him to the Bishop’s Arm pub. Harbouring some of the island’s most dubious characters, will Littlejohn find the clue among these shady figures before a possibly innocent boy is sent to jail?
The Tormentors was originally published in 1962.
The glamour of Hollywood has descended upon the Isle of Man: smiling stars, flashing photographers, adoring fans…
But behind this glossy façade, something sinister stirs. Superintendent Littlejohn thought he was in for a few days’ holiday, but when the handsome Hal Vale, charismatic male-lead and debaucherous divorcee, is found dead in his hotel room, Littlejohn is called back to investigate.
Was it murder, suicide or accident? While motives and rumours abound, this star-studded pursuit reaches far beyond the confines of the Isle of Man. From London and Dublin to the French Riveria, the sprawl of this sensational death extends further than Littlejohn could suspect. With the help of his old friend, Inspector Dorange of the Surété at Nice, Littlejohn follows the trail to a high-stakes financial game and the ruthless tycoons of the industry.
But brought within an inch of death, can the two expose this financial conspiracy and make it out alive?
Death of a Tin God was originally published in 1961.
It is holiday time in Douglas and the town is alive with the local carnival. Whirling noises, swirling figures, a brass band and bagpipes – a procession makes its way down the promenade. Stragglers rush to join in on the fun.
At the centre, a man struggles to sit.
Packed side to side, cheering and clapping, buzzing and humming, the procession cling together in a tight knot. Slowly moving, they make their way down the promenade towards the pier. The crowd thins and the promenade empties.
At the centre, a man is found dead.
On his way home from a conference in Dublin, Superintendent Littlejohn calls to visit his old friend, the Rev Caesar Kinrade. But with the anonymous Uncle Fred found murdered with a knife wound to his back, Littlejohn is quickly caught up in the investigation.
Littlejohn’s questioning unravels the many mysterious layers to the strange life of Uncle Fred. But Littlejohn is left wondering, Who could have wanted him dead?
Corpse at the Carnival was originally published in 1958.
Found wandering the streets of London, ex-harbourmaster of Castletown on the Isle of Man, Finlo Crennell, has been missing for a week.
Suffering from memory loss, he has no recollection of that time or how he came to be in London. He is escorted back to the island by Chief Inspector Littlejohn of Scotland Yard. Less than twenty-four hours later, Crennell is found brutally murdered with a bullet hole through his head.
Littlejohn assumes the case, but soon has two murder investigations on his hands. A bankrupt farmer, Charlie Cribbin, has been murdered in a desolate, ruined house on the moors. His fatal injury is also a bullet to the head.
Littlejohn must follow the trail to connect these two murders if he is ever to get to the bottom of Crennell’s mysterious amnesia and track down the killer.
Death Treads Softly was originally published in 1956.
While scallop dredging off the Isle of Man, the Manx Shearwater drags up a body. Tied at the ankles and weighed down, this is more than a case of drowning. The medical report reveals a grisly and brutal attack on the victim. But the question is Why?
With an extravagant house (garish, some might say), licentious endeavours (of the wicked women variety), Cedric Lewis is no friend to his community. Now, this philanderer with an unsavoury reputation, has gone missing. Mysteriously, letters forwarded to his hotel room in San Reno have been returned, and he has been charged for the room he never claimed. Could he have been murdered for his money?
Under the pretence of a vacation, Chief Inspector Littlejohn is invited by his old friend, Archdeacon Kinrade, to unofficially assist with the murder investigation. Kinrade is certain the man accused of the murder is innocent and so Inspector Littlejohn must work to uncover the truth behind the murder and find who took Mr Levis’ hotel room that night. But with the mysterious and malevolent stories surrounding the Cursing Stones, will Littlejohn be able to separate fact from fiction?
The Cursing Stones Murder was originally published in 1954.
Inspector Littlejohn finds himself facing one of the most baffling mysteries of his career as a brutal murder takes him to the small community of the Isle of Man.
The Isle’s Deemster, the most senior judge on the island, has been murdered and it’s down to Littlejohn to solve the case. But will he manage in time as events move at alarming speed involving forgery, smuggling and more murder.
This fast paced mystery is full of Bellairs’ humour and wit, and leaves the reader on the edge of their seat.
Half-Mast for the Deemster was originally published in 1953.
Even the most meticulous of criminals can be caught out, especially if they don’t leave room for human error.
It was meant to be a fool-proof scheme. The victim, Finloe Oates, was a recluse after the death of his wife, cutting himself off from the world. Nobody would think it strange when they didn’t see him. Nobody would make enquiries.
Well, nobody would have done if a runaway bank clerk hadn’t caused a chain of investigations, that once begun, grew to overwhelming proportions and soon became far too big for the local police to handle.
Murder, impersonation, disappearance, forgery and embezzlement. Our old friend Inspector Littlejohn finds himself drawn into the world of the recluse when he and his colleague Cromwell dive in to unravel the tangled mystery.
Death in Dark Glasses was originally published in 1952.
Death of a Busybody – Buy here
Miss Tither, the village busybody, is not the best-loved resident of Hilary Magna. She has made many enemies: bombarding the villagers with religious tracts, berating drunkards, and informing the spouses of cheating partners. Her murder, however, is still a huge shock to the Reverend Ethelred Claplady and his parish. Inspector Littlejohn s understanding of country ways makes him Scotland Yard s first choice for the job. Basing himself at the village inn, Littlejohn works with the local police to investigate what lay behind the murder. A second death does little to settle the collective nerves of the village, and as events escalate, a strange tale of hidden identities, repressed resentment, religious fervour and financial scams is uncovered. Life in the picturesque village of Hilary Magna proves to be very far from idyllic.
George Bellairs was the pseudonym of Harold Blundell (1902 1985), a prominent banker and philanthropist from Manchester who became the author of a popular series of detective stories featuring Thomas Littlejohn, which were published for nearly forty years.
Against the background of fascinating Provence, a fantastic case is solved. Chief Inspector Littlejohn is sent to France to make informal enquiries about a motor accident.
But his job is not easy, for he finds himself amongst the sombre, secretive inhabitants of St. Marcellin, a dying French village in the mountains of High Provence. Dominated by the aristocratic Monsieur le Marquis, the village obstructs his every move. But they had under-estimated the kindly, courteous Littlejohn.
“One of the subtlest and wittiest practitioners of the simon-pure British detective story” – The New York Times
“Mr Bellairs always gives good value” – The Sunday Times
“Pure British detective story” – The New York Times
“Bellairs works in a comic tradition that extends from Ben Jonson… Each character has a particular trait exaggerated to the point of obsession or caricature.” – Susan B. MacDougall
Death in High Provence was originally published in 1957.
On the night that Joss Varran was expected home after a visit to Wormwood Scrubs, his body was found in a ditch right opposite the cottage where he lived with his sister in the silent marshes in the north of the Isle of Man.
Chief Superintendent Littlejohn, of Scotland Yard, soon becomes involved in the case as a result of Varran’s recent imprisonment in a London jail.
Joss Varran had been a sailor on a container ship between Ramsey and Preston and somewhere in his voyages had been caught up in events which had made him a hunted man, not so much by the police as by his partners in crime. From all appearances, he had endeavoured to shake them off by getting himself imprisoned!
His efforts, however, were in vain and his murder presents a confusing case in the Manx curraghs for Inspector Knell, of the Manx police, and his friends Littlejohn and the Venerable Caesar Kinrade, Archdeacon of Man.
The Night They Killed Joss Varran was originally published in 1970.
One morning, after a police investigation of a fire at the desolate farm of Great Lands, the bodies of Harry Quill, the owner, and his wife are discovered lying on the doorstep. He is dead and she is unconscious.
Mrs. Quill, an invalid, it appears had burned the stack to raise the alarm. She dies in hospital without recovering consciousness, unable to offer an invaluable statement.
Chief Superintendent Littlejohn and Inspector Cromwell become involved in the murder case believing it to be associated with another case they are investigating. Their nation-wide investigation is centred around the Black Lot – a gang of criminals raiding isolated farms. However, on the very night of Quill’s death, the Black Lot are arrested in the North of Scotland.
The Quill family is old and widespread, a closed shop to all except its members, who know all its secrets but keep quiet in public. They are headed by Aunt Clara, a formidable old lady whom they all respect and greatly fear. Littlejohn finds himself face to face several times with Clara Quill, battling her and her crafty lawyers before he finally finds out who killed Harry.
Death in Desolation was originally published in 1967.
Miss Melody Johnson, an old unmarried lady, dies in the strange village of Plumpton Bois, once busy and prosperous, but now almost deserted and supervised by its ambitious police constable, Green, and its easy-going, cynical postman, Fowler.
Miss Johnson leaves her family home, Johnsons Place, to her sole surviving relative who cannot wait to inspect the property, but while doing so, is murdered by an intruder hiding in the cellar.
The police officials in the nearby country town cannot agree about the motive for the crime. Some say a casual burglary, other believe it to be something more subtle, since although Miss Johnson seemed to be wealthy, in reality her declared estate was next-to-nothing.
What had happened to her fortune? The Chief Constable sends for Scotland Yard to settle the argument.
Superintendent Littlejohn and Inspector Cromwell set about the mystery in their usual painstaking way and bring to light some strange facts both about the Johnson family, and some of the other inhabitants of Plumpton Bois.
Littlejohn brings the many threads together, but another sudden death threatens to break the strands and provide the killer with a way of escape.
Intruder in the Dark was originally published in 1966.
During a police conference in Geneva, Alec Cling, a detective assigned to the personal safety of Sir Ensor Cobb, British Minister of Security, is murdered and his body found in a car parked in a rose garden.
The car happens to be hired by Superintendent Littlejohn, of Scotland Yard. Cling was a lone wolf when off duty. Saturnine and silent, he seemed to hate everyone and everything, except children, old people and dogs. It was obvious that the case was international at its roots, extending from Switzerland back to London.
Littlejohn is assigned to the case in London. The trail leads him through a seedy hotel in Geneva to a mental clinic in the mountains and from there, to London Airport, where there is quite a commotion before Littlejohn finally clears up the investigation.
Death of a Shadow was originally published in 1964.
GEORGE KEELAGHER, head of a stock-broking firm in the city, thrusts himself on his nephew Waldo and the latter’s wife Averil, who are holidaying in the south of France in their new caravan.
Not long after their arrival on the Riviera, Waldo finds Uncle George dead in the wasteland of the Estérel, near Cannes. In panic Waldo and Averil pack the body in the back of their car and take it to the police in Cannes. Whilst they are reporting, car and body are stolen from in front of the police station. When the body is at last found, hidden in the wasteland, it is clearly a case of murder.
Waldo turns for help to Superintendent Littlejohn who is on holiday nearby, and with the latter on the case, enquiries soon shift to Great Missenden, where Uncle George lived, and to the city, where all is not well with the stock-broking business.
Together, Littlejohn and Cromwell, now promoted to Inspector, find themselves caught up in one of their most complicated and unorthodox cases, in which the characters of the suspects count for as much as their actions.
Death in the Wasteland was originally published in 1964.
“The place is dead now at night. It’s like it was in wartime. As soon as night falls, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Superintendent Littlejohn arrives in the village of Carleton Unthank to investigate a triple murder that has left the town crippled with fear. With the threat of another murder looming, Littlejohn must catch the killer before the body count rises any further.
Death in the Fearful Night was originally published in 1960.
The curraghs in the Isle of Man are, as a rule, eerie and silent after dark, but that silence is shattered for the villagers of Mylecharaine one black night in April by a loud explosion followed by the violent ringing of the church bell.
The Vicar, Sullivan Lee, is discovered praying beside the murdered body of Sir Martin Skollick, the squire of Myrescogh. By the side of the body lies a sporting gun with both barrels fired. Archdeacon Kinrade summons his old friend Superintendent Littlejohn of Scotland Yard back to the Isle of Man.
There, with the help of Inspector Knell of the Manx C.I.D., Littlejohn sheds light on the murdered man’s past misdeeds, his enemies, and his lady friends in particular, before Littlejohn has the answer to the mystery that started the church bell tolling across the curraghs that fateful night.
Toll the Bell for Murder was originally published in 1959
When Samuel Cheever, a shady dealer, goes to France to buy antiques and never returns, people in his home-town of Francaster begin to ask questions.
Superintendent Littlejohn travels to France to uncover the mystery. Cheever’s bones are discovered in the Camargue, the wilderness around the Rhône delta, and Littlejohn again finds himself, with Sergeant Cromwell at his side, in the company of the French police. They work amicably together, as usual, but Cheever’s trail leads to many strange places, meeting a variety of colourful characters on the way before the case is solved.
The charming people, the sunshine, the wine and the food of the sweet land of France are all here and, of course, there is Cromwell, too, enthusiastic and modest as ever, trying out his French for the first time and meeting with mixed results.
Bones in the Wilderness was originally published in 1959.
The many admirers of Sergeant Cromwell, faithful assistant and friend to Superintendent Littlejohn, will learn with dismay that, whilst attending the funeral of his uncle Richard, in the pretty Cheshire village of Rushton Inferior, he is shot through the head.
The fact that Cromwell is quite unknown in Rushton raises the questions of whether or not the crime was an accident or deliberately done.
Littlejohn, casting all other tasks aside, hurries north to the hospital where his sergeant is lying and there the surgeon tells him that the crime was committed by the smallest bullet he has ever seen. A shot from a pop-gun, in fact!
The famous Superintendent settles down in Rushton Inferior, gets to work, and there unravels a series of stories and incidents, some comic, others tragic in the extreme, all of which finally lead him to solve the case. Throughout the course of the investigation, the most courteous of all detectives is accused of bad-manners and rudeness, but the convicted criminal in the end writes to him from prison and thanks him for being a true friend!
Murder Makes Mistakes was originally published in 1958.
Upper Square is the last stronghold of snobbery in Abbot’s Caldicott, a dying little metropolis in East Anglia, and the remnants of queer old families reside there.
Doctor Beharrell, a prominent physician, is found murdered in a secret room in his home at Bank House, in the square, and Superintendent Littlejohn, warned before it has been discovered that the crime has been committed, goes to investigate.
Before he leaves Caldicott with the case solved, a lot of strange past history comes to light and the repressions and inbreeding of the upper ten of Caldicott produce some queer twists of hatred and madness. Littlejohn, whom David Holloway calls ‘ the most courteous of all fictional detectives,’ finds all his good manners are needed in dealing with this strange affair among a crowd of characters who live in an atmosphere of days that are gone.
Death Sends for the Doctor was originally published in 1957.
‘I’m a spiv… But whatever I’ve done, I never killed anybody.’
It’s a rainy, uneventful evening in the Oddfellows’ Arms until a greasy-looking spiv bursts into the pub, clearly unstable, and ranting about a body in Fennings’ Mill.
The police investigate the mad-man’s tale, and stumble upon a body, the face smeared with theatrical make-up and a false moustache pasted neatly over the lip. Once the national news descends, Inspector Faddiman calls in Inspector Littlejohn to help him uncover the dark, hidden secrets in this quiet, provincial town. Soon it becomes clear that a lot of people can’t, and won’t tell the truth.
Again the author of The Case of the Famished Parson supplies his many fans with all the ingredients for a session of pleasure and puzzlement.
The Case of the Demented Spiv was originally published in 1950.
Ned Bunn wasn’t a popular member of the community of Enderby. There were people who had wished him dead.
But when he is murdered on the doorstep of his own shop there’s a terrible outcry, the community is in shock. Littlejohn of Scotland Yard investigates the case and finds there are some startling revelations about Bunn and his family, before the murderer is finally tracked down.
Corpses in Enderby was originally published in 1960.
Dr. James Macintosh, the Bishop of Greyle, is a mysterious man; for a long time, nobody even seems to know his last name. But things suddenly take a turn for the worse when his body is found completely emaciated and battered having being pushed face-first off the edge of a cliff…
Inspector Littlejohn faces an incredibly peculiar case and must figure out how to explain the savage murder of a gentle Bishop? Perhaps he know too much about the secretive citizens of Cape Marvin, the seaside resort and the place of his murder. Or did it have something to do with the strange family he had left behind in Medhope?
Above all, why was the Bishop’s body so undernourished that death by violence won out by only a few days over death by starvation?
The Case of the Famished Parson was originally published in 1949.