Enderby is a small English town, and local businessman Ned Bunn is one of its well-known residents. He’s not exactly a well-liked resident; he’s something of a bully – always has been – and he’s used to getting his way. After a few drinks with other townsmen at the local pub, Bunn walks across the street to his shop, discovers his 40-year-old daughter kissing his shop assistant, physically throws the assistant into the street, and within a scant few minutes is shot to death, his body hurtling from the front door.
Who shot Ned Bunn? As Inspector Thomas Littlejohn of Scotland Yard will discover, a veritable ocean of suspects and motives will be uncovered during the investigation. Not the least of which are those of the large eye-to-the-main-chance Bunn family, with a cast of characters right out of a Charles Dickens novel, including two elderly women vying to be considered the Bunn matriarch.
Is the killer the daughter or her would-be suitor? Is it the shopkeeper next door facing eviction at Bunn’s hands? Is it any of a dozen or more Bunn relatives who hate Ned for past family sins, or would love to get their hands on his money, or both? Is it the step=sister whose love life he ruined? Littlejohn has his hands full. And then there’s a second murder, which may or may not be related to the first.
First published in 1960, Corpses in Enderby by George Bellairs (1902-1982) is a book where the story and the mystery seem almost secondary to the large cast of characters who each try to take the story in their own direction. It’s a fun, large riot of a story.
George Bellairs is a pseudonym of British author Harold Blundell, who was first a banker and philanthropist before turning his hand to writing mystery stories. He wrote more than 50 Inspector Littlejohn mysteries, and also wrote four other books under the pseudonym of Hilary Langdon. He also wrote comedy for radio, and was a newspaper columnist and freelance writer.
Inspector Littlejohn will eventually get his villain (or villains, as the case may be; the story gets complex at times). We’ll miss the Bunn family, though; they contained enough stories to keep a dozen books goings.
Top photograph: A small English town by Annie Spratt via Unsplash. Used with permission.