Boston Brahmins: The House that Died by Josephine Gill (1956)

The Bellamy family is the upper crust of Boston. When Grand Aunt Elizabeth’s secretary-companion, Anne Chisholm, loses her footing on the rear-staircase and comes crashing down, the family rings up the hospital to send an ambulance. However, the line being busy, a police ambulance is rather sent to the house. With the ambulance comes the police, Lieutenant Desmond and his assistant Cavanaugh. When he starts his inquiry, Desmond is non-plussed to find that the family knows next to nothing about Anne. Nor does her room or personal possessions reveal much to the police. He is also offended at the fact that the family is more concerned about the inconvenience that Anne’s death has caused them rather than her death. He tells on this to his reporter-friend, Matt Garrick of the Tribune. Later on when the Bellamy family pulls a few strings and gets the police investigation stone-walled, it is left to Garrick to continue with the investigations which he does with relish as keen as Desmond to puncture the egos of the Bellamy. Meanwhile, the youngest of the Bellamy clan, Barbara, is nervous and upset because she found a scarf on the stairs when Anne fell and now somebody has stolen the scarf from where she hid it in her drawer. She wants to discuss it with Jonathan, her brother, but he seems to have some secret trouble of his own. Barbara doesn’t know what to do so she confides in Matt (bad move) but asks him not to tell the police as yet. Matt is in a bind and what role does Joshua E. Bellamy who holds the purse-strings play in all this?

Information about the author is scant not that I am all that keen to read more of her as I didn’t enjoy this. Matt, came across as very vindictive and I fail to understand as to why he was forever angry. And his last musings on the house smack of hypocrisy since he never felt an iota of grief while bringing about its downfall:

The home would follow the fate of so many of its neighbours. It would stand neglected for a while, and passers-by would point it out, remembering the “bellamy case.” And then eventually it would be sold and cut up into apartments or furnished rooms. After a while people would forget its past, Like the Bellamys, the old house had had its day.

The only time I felt a feeling of sorrow was when the son of the family thinks thus:

No matter what happened, they would walk their separate ways from now on, lonely, dark ways like the streets below. And suddeenly their past life with its tedium, its pretensions, and even its deceptions seemed to him a haven of normalcy and comfort – a harbour none of them could ever reach again.

Overall, I the book’s message was to have faith in your own family because outsiders are more than eager to bring about your downfall.


First Line: The Bellamy House, a stately four-storey brownstone, occupied a choice corner on Marlborough street in Boston’s Back Bay.

Publication Details: London: Collins (The Crime Club), 1956

Deducated to: Bill, the reporter who made this story possible.

Pages: 192

13 thoughts on “Boston Brahmins: The House that Died by Josephine Gill (1956)

  1. Like Malikabooks15, I thought of Dumb Witness, Neeru. It doesn’t really sound as though any of the characters here are particularly interesting (or, perhaps I’m too quick to judge). That alone would pull me out of a story. I do think that commentary on the way the family splits up is well-put, though, and casts an almost poignant light on the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t have that kind of deep-rooted prejudice against the Bellamays just because they happened to be upper-crust, Margot, so I found the actions of the hero full of vindictivness. It put me off the novel.

      Liked by 1 person

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