A Knife for Harry Dodd
by George Bellairs
At first, the women hadn’t believed Dodd was dead. They had put him in his pyjamas, fixed up his wound with plaster and lint, and put him to bed. Then, they’d realised he had died quietly whilst in their hands.
When Harry Dodd calls Dorothy Nicholls for a ride home from the pub, she and her mother think he’s just had too much to drink. Little do they know that he’s dying of a stab wound to the back. By the time they get him home, he’s dead.
Who would want to kill Harry Dodd? To all his friends, Dodd was a kind man living a life of routine. Was it a random attack? Or someone nearer to his inner circle? When Inspector Littlejohn and Cromwell are called in to investigate this murder, they uncover the dark side to the Dodds: a power-hungry family rife with secrets and manipulation. Perhaps Dodd’s life was not as simple as it seemed… As more motives and more enemies emerge, Littlejohn is determined to learn if Dodd was the target in a deadly game of revenge.
Bogged down by jealousy, greed, and spurned lovers, Littlejohn has more suspects than he can handle. And as the body count rises, it seems there might be more than one murderer in their midst…
A Knife for Harry Dodd was first published in 1953.
I won an ARC of this book in a Twitter competition run by Agora Books and I must admit that until then, I’d never heard of “A Knife for Harry Dodd” or its author George Bellairs. Doing a bit of research, I’ve found that Bellairs wrote more than 50 books in his lifetime, most of them featuring the detective of this story, Inspector Littlejohn.
From page one, I was gripped by this whodunit style story. Harry Dodd has be found with a stab wound in his back and by the time he gets home, he’s dead. Who stabbed him? Why did they do it? I was turning the pages, keen to discover the answers myself.
This book felt intelligent. There was a clear plot, full of intricate twists and turns as Littlejohn and Sergeant Cromwell encountered a number of characters with connections to the investigation. The pair find plenty of colourful suspects on their travels around rural England, and piece by piece they begin to learn the truth about the life of Harry Dodd, his family and his women.
For the most part, I really enjoyed reading this book and was able to look past some of its slightly outdated views and attitudes. I smiled at the old-fashioned Britishness of it all, from the stiff upper lip to the locals in a country pub and the cycling policeman.
That said, towards the end of the book I began to lose interest in some of these quirky characters, who at times felt like stereotypical caricatures. Not enough to spoil the read for me, but enough to feel that the ending was overdue. I wonder if this story would have benefited from fewer pages, or perhaps it would have been better told in short story format.
Overall rating: “A Knife for Harry Dodd” is a wonderful piece of detective fiction originally published in the 1950s. George Bellairs tells a very British story of murders in the countryside which I mostly enjoyed but a few niggles here and there knocked a couple of points off in my eyes – 3 stars.