Saturday, November 24, 2018

Devious Murder: Review

Devious Murder (1973) by George Bellairs is the 53rd novel in the Chief Inspector Littlejohn series and the first one I've ever found in my various bookshop and book sale scavenger hunts. This story features the investigation into the murder of Charles Blunt, a discreet and highly successful cat burglar who had eluded the grasp of the police for years though he had been the chief suspect in many in a robbery. Blunt always planned his robberies meticulously, never resorted to violence, and worked alone--all factors which led to his success.

Littlejohn takes his dog out for the last walk of the day and discovers Blunt's body at the gates of an abandoned house. The Chief Inspector decides to take a hand in the case (though it's technically not on his patch) and there are many questions that immediately arise. What was Blunt doing in that area? Why was his body left at the gates? Why, after years of working alone, are there clues pointing to confederates? And is this a case of thieves falling out? 

Littlejohn and Scotland Yard follow the clues back to a luxury flat that seems to be out of Blunt's price range. But when he discovers that the flat just happens to overlook the estate of an American multi-millionaire who has lavished his younger, spendthrift wife with jewels of every sort things become clear. Blunt obviously had taken the apartment to prepare for his next jewelry heist. From his luxurious perch he could see exactly where the jewels were kept and he could scope out the security measures. But who killed him and left him in Littlejohn's neighborhood?

Despite the fact that I'm entering Littlejohn's career fairly late in the game, this was a fine introduction to the Chief Inspector and his detecting world. The characters are strong and well-defined and Littlejohn is solid investigator with a nicely developed sense of humor. This is a police procedural in construction, so Bellairs is not so much concerned with dropping clues here and there for the reader to spot and try to outwit the detective. There's not much chance to get to the solution before Littlejohn, but the investigation and the Chief Inspector's manner of conducting it are interesting enough to keep the reader's attention.  ★★

[Finished 11/13/18]

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