Bellairs, George: Corpse at the Carnival
Title: Corpse at the Carnival
Author: Belairs, George
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd.
Copyright: George Belairs, 1958
Published: First published by John Gifford 1958; published by Penguin Books 1964
Synopsis: It is holiday time in Douglas on the Isle of Man, and a carnival crowd is enjoying the event. Uncle Fred, a solitary, elderly man, who is peacefully gazing out to sea, is murdered while Superintendent Littlejohn of Scotland Yard is preparing to land at the Isle of Man for a holiday. Even though he is on holiday, Inspector Knell, of the Manx CID, asks Littlejohn to give him an unofficial hand in the case.
Outwardly, Uncle Fred appears to have been a harmless old man who would give no-one a motive to kill him. Of course there’s more to Fred Snook than meets the eye. He has a very colourful past which slowly appears as the story goes on. Similarly, there’s considerably more to Superintendent Littlejohn than meets the eye who, under a screen of humility and humor is as sharp as the proverbial tack.
Bellairs includes a number of interesting characters in addition to Littlejohn, his friend Archdeacon Kinrade and Inspector Knell. Mrs Trimble, the boarding house owners are former actors who include among their lodgers an unmarried couple, newly-weds, Teddy Boys (think bikers in the USA), a moneylender’s widow, a hypochondriac teacher and an ex-bookie with a wife and three children.
Littlejohn, Knell and the Archdeacon have to travel the island, as far as the Calf of Man, talking to people and sussing out secrets – and giving Bellairs ample scope to describe the island at the height of the holiday season in the late 1950s. There are plenty of clues, many of them misleading, but gradually more and more facts appear, and in his quiet way, Littlejohn figures out what happened and why.
If you like a typical British mystery at the tail end of the British mystery ‘golden age’ then this is a book for you. If you need non-stop violence, sex, car chases, etc. this is not your type of book.