The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

After reading The Christie Affair, I was in the mood to read a crime classic by Dame Agatha, and this time around, I decided to go with a Miss Marple mystery. I don’t think I have ever read a Miss Marple before, and The Body in The Library, the second book in the Miss Marple series, seemed like a fun place to start, purely because of the book’s title! Unlike Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple is an amateur sleuth, living in the village of St. Mary Mead. Miss Marple is sharp as they come, and she has a keen eye, so naturally, she knows all about the comings and goings in their quaint little village. While reading The Body in The Library, I didn’t view this characteristic of hers as nosiness. But in the predecessor, The Murder at the Vicarage, Miss Marple is apparently a busybody – a quality that Agatha Christie had to mellow down as the series progressed!

Even though I won’t call Miss Marple a gossip, I would say she’s quick to note negative human behaviors – she always has plenty of examples to give, and they often help her work out the inner workings of the criminal’s mind. I didn’t appreciate it at first, but it is this shrewd judgement of human nature that allows Miss Marple to catch the culprit. I’m, evidently, too trusting as I was completely off with the solution! ūüėÄ

The whodunit here is a cozy mystery, keeping up with the signature Agatha Christie-style. The library in question, where the body of an unidentified woman is found, is in Gossington Hall, the home of Colonel Arthur Bantry. Arthur is the principal magistrate of the district, and his wife, Dolly, is one of Miss Marple’s good friends. When Dolly calls Miss Marple after the body was discovered to do some sleuthing, she plays it cool. “What I feel is that if one has got to have a murder actually happening in one’s house, one might as well enjoy it,” is the reason Dolly gives for inviting Miss Marple over. But Miss Marple knows her friend, and that she means business. Arthur won’t survive in St. Mary Mead if this crime goes unsolved. Although no one will say it to Arthur’s face, they’ll make up stories about the victim having been Arthur’s mistress, and suspect him of having killed her. This scandal won’t wash off of Arthur, and Miss Marple wants to ensure that doesn’t happen to her friends. Luckily for the Bantrys, Miss Marple succeeds in her mission. It takes a bit of work, from the identification of the body to figuring out whydunit. The dead girl, identified as Ruby Keene by her cousin Josephine Turner, had been a professional dancer at the Majestic Hotel in the adjoining county. Ruby was going to be adopted by Conway Jefferson, a man who had made a fortune by drowning himself in work after his children’s lives were cut short in a tragic accident. The eighteen-year-old Ruby would have received ¬£50,000 upon Conway’s passing. Ruby’s “luck” seems to have hurried her premature demise, although the exact reason for it isn’t readily apparent. Did Ruby have a lover stashed somewhere who wasn’t thrilled about Ruby coming into money? Or were Conway’s in-laws jealous of Ruby, enough for them to commit murder? Red herrings galore in this plot as you try to figure it out, and it makes for a fun read!

3 stars.

Note: Many thanks to William Morrow for sending me a copy of The Body in The Library.

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