Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs

 Death of a Busybody cover

Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs is a book that I’ve had for some time and I just realised last week that for some reason I hadn’t read it, I usually read these British Library Crime Classics as soon as I get them. George Bellairs was the nom de plume of Harold Blundell a bank manager in Heywood, Rochdale.

Miss Tither lives in the village of Hilary Magna and she sees it as her duty to keep all the villagers on the straight and narrow. It’s presumed that she spends her time creeping around in the dark, keeking in at windows, gathering information on her neighbours, with a view to haranging them about any perceived misdemeanours, almost always of the sexual kind. Don’t go courting in the woods when she’s around as she’ll be demanding that you and your ‘click’ get married, and handing you a religious tract! As you can imagine she’s a very unpopular woman, so when she ends up dead, obviously murdered, there’s no obvious culprit.

Enter Inspector Littlejohn of Scotland Yard. He has been a bit of a countryman in the past and he understands the ways of a small village and the sometimes oddly matched couples. This book is a lot more than a simple murder mystery and for me it’s always a big plus that the original victim is so nasty as to be almost deserving of their end.

The book was first published in 1942 but there’s not an awful lot of the wartime ambience in it. In fact there is a very popular tearoom mentioned, a place where ‘ladies lunch’ and the descriptions of all the (unlikely) wonderful goodies available to eat there did make me think of those lists of almost certainly unobtainable edibles that pop up in many books of those rationed days, such as the Enid Blyton midnight feasts and the C.S. Lewis Narnia books with groaning tables full of food, and of course not forgetting someone selling their soul for some Turkish Delight! I suppose if you couldn’t obtain the goodies to eat the next best thing is to dream up that you can have them, wishful thinking.

Anyway, I enjoyed this one, and the cover which comes from a British Railways 1930s advert for Suffolk.


Private Enterprise by Angela Thirkell

Where do I go when I want a bit of comfort reading? West Barsetshire circa 1947 of course courtesy of Angela Thirkell. In Private Enterprise we’re back hobnobbing in the homes of the Mertons and Brandons and all the well known families of the county, where the villages have names like Winter Underclose, Winter Overcotes, Eiderdown, Little Misfit and Worsted.

As ever they’re all bound together by a mutual hatred of the bishop and his wife and any strangers in their midst are regarded as ‘good eggs’ if they too have a dislike of everything to do with the bishop and his palace.

Mrs. Arbuthnot is a young widow who has come to live in the county and Colin thinks he’s in love and makes a nuisance of himself and a new vicar has arrived and is in need of a wife too.

Otherwise the talk is all of the Labour government and Them in general and food and clothes rationing is a hot topic with the government putting bread on the ration. World War II has been over for more than a year but living conditions are getting worse for the people of Britain. Any so called luxuries which are being made in Britain are being sold abroad to try to pay off the country’s debts. If you want to know more about rationing you can read about it here or see a video. It continued until 1954.

Does any of this remind you of anything?! The talk is all of austerity, austerity – just as it is now. I’m convinced that politicians of every type just want to control the general population and to that end they like to whip up consternation and panic, whether it’s about bread or as it is today – petrol.

Anyway, I’ve sort of strayed away from Private Enterprise, if you enjoy books about life in Britain in the 1940s then you’ll like this book. There’s plenty of humour and worldly wisdom and romance thrown in too.