Dead March for Penelope Blow by George Bellairs

‘Is Inspector Littlejohn in, please?’

Miss Penelope Blow has been trying to see Inspector Littlejohn at Scotland Yard.  Three times she is called but, unfortunately, he is away at a murder trial.  Miss Blow will only see Inspector Littlejohn and, as she is about to return home to Nesbury, reluctantly leaves a complicated message for Inspector Littlejohn to call her (via the housekeeper) when he returns.

Miss Blow returns to the place where she has been staying and is confronted by her relative, Harold, who insists that she return with him to Nesbury.  It seems that her family is suspicious of what she might be doing in London.

By the time Inspector Littlejohn receives the message, Miss Blow is dead.  An accident, they say.  She fell out of her bedroom window while watering plants in a window box.   Inspector Littlejohn is concerned: why did Miss Blow want to see him and was her death really an accident?

It seems that the Blow family is full of secrets.  Circumstances enable Inspector Littlejohn to investigate (although neither the Blow family nor some of the local police hierarchy see any such need).  The staff who work for the Blow family are happy (mostly) to assist.  But if Miss Blow was murdered, who murdered her and why?

This delightful mystery was first published in 1951 and reflects a class-conscious period in a small English town.  With well-developed characters, touches of humour and more than a couple of possibilities, the novel held my attention from beginning to end.  And yes, I did finally work it out … just before the truth was revealed.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith