The Body In The Dumb River (1961) aka Murder Masquerade by George Bellairs

The Dumb River is so-called because it generally runs silently through Ely in East Anglia, usually not causing any interest whatsoever. Until the body of Jim Lane, a “decent hard-working chap” is found floating in it, stabbed in the back.

Luckily, Superintendent Littlejohn of Scotland Yard is in the area, having just concluded another investigation and takes charge. He soon finds that things are not as simple as it might have looked, for Jim Lane, a worker at the local fairground, is in fact James Teasdale from Yorkshire – a place where his other family are waiting for him to come home.

Does Teasdale’s murderer reside up north or down south? And who could possibly have a reason to kill him?

I think Bellairs and E C R Lorac have a lot in common. Apart from a fairly personality-free detective, location plays a very important part in their writing. The book is billed as “a Yorkshire mystery” so it’s no secret that the bulk of the investigation takes place there. The extended family of Teasdale is the focus, as one might expect, and Littlejohn’s investigation is an interesting read.

The issue I had was that the plot was just a bit too straightforward. This reader spotted the murderer quite early – I think I was supposed to – but thereafter, Bellairs’ attempts at misdirection fell a bit flat. And I’m pretty sure that the coroner could have answered one fundamental question almost straight away…

If you enjoyed other works by Bellairs (or by Lorac), or you are a reader who enjoys rounded characters and setting, then you’ll enjoy this one. Just be aware that the plot isn’t exactly a classic puzzler.

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