The Body in the Library – Agatha Christie

I realised that actually The Body in the library isn’t the second Miss Marple written by Agatha Christie after I picked it up from my Christie post the other day. I also realised I have completely broken my ‘read things in order’ rule I like for a series of books as I had already read At Bertram’s Hotel (actually the eleventh), 4.50 From Paddington (which I always think is the first but is actually the eighth) and then the actual first Marple novel The Murder at The Vicarage. I was slightly narked at myself but I needed a Marple and Christie fest and didn’t have The Thirteen Problems so I just went with it.

The title ‘The Body in the Library’ kind of gives away just what is coming in the opening pages. Yes that’s right, the Bantry household awakes to find that there is indeed a body of an unknown platinum blonde in their library. No one in the household has seen the young girl before and it takes some time for the police to track her down. However it doesn’t take that long for Miss Jane Marple to appear on the scene as Mrs Bantry, a close friend, sends a chauffeur round for her pronto phoning ahead before ‘the recognised time to make friendly calls to neighbours’.

The police having met Miss Marple and her amateur sleuthing naturally want her gone as soon as possible. She doesn’t leave until she overhears that the victim was a dancer at the Hotel Majestic in Danemouth and before long Mrs Bantry and Miss Marple just so happen to take a small holiday there. So who was this girl, how did she end up in a strangers library in St Mary’s Mead and who took her there and killed her? Well you will have to read this joyous romp to find out.

Reading Agatha Christie this time round and taking slightly longer than the normal one sitting I noticed the wry humour she has that I spotted after seeing ‘The Spiders Web’ on stage the other week. Even from the wonderful opening paragraph there it is “Mrs Bantry was dreaming. Her sweet peas had just taken a first at the flower show. The vicar, dressed in a cassock and surplice, was giving out the prizes in church. His wife wandered past, dressed in a bathing-suit, but as is the blessed habit of dreams this fact did not arouse the disapproval of the parish in the way it would assuredly have done in real life…

Those of you who read regularly will know I love village life and old ladies who are either a bit doolally or gossip and in the book we have both. Again the rye wit comes through in lines such as when we meet one of the villagers “Miss Wetherby, a long nosed, acidulated spinster, was the first to spread the intoxicating information”. Or when one woman in the village defends another to Miss Marple “Selena Blake is the nicest woman imaginable. Her herbaceous borders are simply marvellous – they make me green with envy. And she’s frightfully generous with her cuttings.’

I really took stock of Agatha Christie’s writing this time whilst try to hunt the killer and motives and it added immensely to my latest Christie reading. There was only one draw back and that was about half way in I suddenly remembered the TV version and so didn’t need to guess the killer as I remembered. If it hadn’t been for the great writing I wouldn’t have carried on but I found myself wanting to continue observing Christie’s characterization, red herring and clue dropping and scene setting. A truly wonderful read, I shall have to have a Christie moment much more often.

23 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Harper Collins, Miss Marple, Review

23 responses to “The Body in the Library – Agatha Christie

  1. Nice review. I also have Christie moments from time to time. But (putting on my English teacher’s hat) I must point out that ‘rye’ is a grain. What you mean is ‘wry’.

  2. armen

    I love agatha christie and the poirot and miss marple and no one could replace🙂

  3. I have never read this but I am desperate for the Penguin mug with this title on – it seems appropriate for a librarian somehow!

  4. I love Agatha Christie too- even if it does make me a total Granny.

    Had no idea how funny she could be till I saw The Spider’s Web.

    Must look out for the “wry humour” you mention when I next read something of hers.

    You must read Death on the Nile- my favourite. No old ladies or villages in the traditional sense though I’m afraid.

  5. Kals

    This is one of my favourite Marple cases! I can’t imagine why some people think she’s boring. Like you, I have a fascination for village life and old ladies who gossip. Miss Marple is a lot of fun =)

  6. Eva

    Thirteen Problems is one of my fave Miss Marples, but several of the plots for those short stories Christie recycled into novels later. I think they were Poirot novels, not Miss Marples though. *trying to remember*

    I think whichever Miss Marple I’ve read most recently is usually my fave! lol

    • Hahaha Eva I think this will quite possibly happen with me the latest one becomes the favourite until the next one does.

      I just got The Thirteen Problems on Read It Swap It so will be reading that quite soon I can assure you.

  7. novelinsights

    Ooh, there’s a library in the mystery that I’ve just read too, and detecting. I might give an Agatha Christie mystery a go this Christmas, this one sounds good…

  8. I have the same problem as you … having watched so many of the Marple and Poirot television versions, I sometimes find the story accidentally ruined. Right now I have two Poirots sitting here that I have to wait through enough time until the shows are out of my head. Usually I try to read the book first but I guess I got these ones a bit out of order.

    • It was a certain line over half way through and I thought ‘ooh hang on I know this one already’ and it turned out I did. I still loved the melodrama of it all and getting to concentrate on Christie’s writing more too.

  9. This is one of my favourite Miss Marple stories – the part I always remember is the bit where she talks about how the murderer must be found, because of the effect it will have on the innocent Bantrys, how her dear friend Mrs. Bantry doesn’t realize it yet, but it will begin slowly and insiduously, polite refusals, sudden reversals. It’s such a great taste of village life.

    • I was utterly charmed by this book for the entire 260 pages it has to be said and though isnt the best book that I have read in 2009 it is one of the books most enjoyed as it enveloped me 100% and was a relaxing read. How I can say that about a book filled with murder I dont know!

  10. I’ve also started a personal mission to read all of Agatha Christie’s books in order! I wondered whether to just pick a certain detective and read through their stories, or to just go in order of publishing, irrespective of detective. In the end, I went with the latter… but I haven’t made much progress since coming to that decision! Thus far I think I’ve only read Christie’s first two books (though over the years I have read a handful of others), but I do have the third one ready to go whenever the mood to read something from the Golden Age of mystery.

    • I can’t do it in order as have royally messed that one up already though having said that as Poirot brings me out in some sort of rash I will be starting his from the very beginning. I must read some of his before my next Marple, she can be a treat for when I succeed!

      Looking forward to your future Agatha thoughts!

  11. Like Steph, I’m reading these in order and am getting ready to start The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I love The Body in the Library. Between Poirot and Marple I will pick her everytime.

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