Mystery crime fiction written in the Golden Age of Murder
'A decent, hardworking chap, with not an enemy anywhere. People were surprised that anybody should want to kill Jim.'
But Jim has been found stabbed in the back near Ely, miles from his Yorkshire home. His body, clearly dumped in the usually silent ('dumb') river, has been discovered before the killer intended – disturbed by a torrential flood in the night.
Roused from a comfortable night's sleep Superintendent Littlejohn of Scotland Yard is soon at the scene. With any clues to the culprit's identity swept away with the surging water, Bellairs' veteran sleuth boards a train heading north to dredge up the truth of the real Jim Teasdale and to trace the mystery of this unassuming victim's murder to its source.
First published in 1961, this workmanlike volume in the British Library Crime Classics series finds Bellairs's Scotland Yarder, Tom Littlejohn, now a superintendent, in the county of Fenshire, where he's helping the local police wrap up a forgery case. Since a torrential storm that has caused flooding has left the police shorthanded, Fenshire's chief constable asks Littlejohn to assist with a murder inquiry. James Lane, who ran a ring-toss stand at the Tylecote fair, was found in the Dumb River with a stab wound in his back. Littlejohn learns that Lane's real name was James Teasdale, an artist who only stayed with his wife, Elvira, at their Yorkshire home on weekends. His name was not Teasdale's only untruth, as he accounted for his absence during the week to Elvira by claiming that he worked for a firm that had him traveling around several counties. The superintendent looks for motives and suspects in both parts of the dead man's life. Traditional whodunit fans looking for a well-written puzzle will be satisfied, even if this isn't Bellairs's finest work.