Blyton for Grown Ups: The Language of the Dead by Stephen Kelly



However, I read it, and I’ve got nothing else to bring you this week. So I’m just putting that warning out there for you guys. As you’ll see with this review, the story itself fits into our Grown Up Blyton category, but the outcome of the story doesn’t fit into that cosy crime genre. But to be fair until I got to the end of the book I had no idea quite how things would turn out in this mystery and what a turn they would take.

That aside, I was impressed with this book, its story and the essence of the war it captured. Shall we take a closer look?

A world away

Whereas Enid Blyton’s  books would largely ignore the war and what went on in it, The Language of the Dead is actually deeply aligned with World War Two, the struggles, the hardships and the realities of war. For this book we’re somewhere in Hampshire, not too far from Portsmouth, and very much in the range of the German bombers who are flying across the channel every night. It adds another layer to the book, especially with the need to sort crime scenes before the black out has to be imposed and there is the constant threat of an air raid siren going off.

As you can probably see it creates quite a closed in feel to the story, the limits, stretched man power and the threat of invasion. Roll it all together with a murder or three and then you really start to get this book going.  Stephen Kelly really does well to capture War Time Britain even though some of the spellings of words such as favour, do make it obvious he is American. This aside, the actual quality of his work, his mystery and his research is impressive. It is a very well written read for those interested in the quality, as someone mentioned on Amazon, in the reviews it is perfect for those who are fans of the TV show Foyles War, even some parallels can be made between the characters and this was partly why I decided it would be worth a go. Plus I don’t read very many war mysteries and this seemed like a good one to try. I usually go for the post-war novels because they tie in more with the peace of Blyton’s novels, but I was pleasently surprised by Kelly’s effort.

The actual story

Overall, I was pleased with the way the mystery took us in very different directions, exploring different possibilities with the idea of witchcraft and rural myths and legends. The eccentric lord was a nice touch as well, and a very typically American thing to do, slip a slightly dotty lord so and so into the mix just to British it up a bit.

Inspector Lamb was well written, nicely rounded off, and not over the top. Kelly created a nice, older, steady character who assess situations and creates a calm air around him in which he uses to calm his staff and solve the mystery in the best way and to the best of his ability. He has a gentle wife who is worrying about their daughter who has gone off to help the war effort in a town a little way away. It turns out that Vera Lamb, the inspector’s daughter, is key to blowing wide the mystery her father is working on. This is something we find sort of repetitive, but it’s used well and with a nice twist into the big revealing moment.

The only issue for me, is like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the actual reason behind the murders isn’t the most pleasant, which takes it out of our crime noir category really and into something much more thrillery. So you need  to read this book with caution, but it sure twists and turns to make you get to the conclusion, even if it is less than cosy.


I would recommend this book to people, for sure. Its easy to read, the story keeps the mind engaged and as part of a series is definitely one to keep an eye on. I’ll look forward to seeing how the characters develop and how the events of the war effect Inspector Lamb and his team. Give it a read and let me know what you think!


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1 Response to Blyton for Grown Ups: The Language of the Dead by Stephen Kelly

  1. chrissie777 says:

    Stef, it sounds very good! Thank you for the recommendation. I’ll request it in December from our public library (by then I hopefully am caught up with all the library books). – Did you ever have a chance to read Peter Watson’s “Landscape of Lies”? It’s almost like a FF novel for adults. You should give it a try.


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