Title: The Body In the Library
Author: Agatha Christie
Age Rating: Young Adult
Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Being the first mature adult ‘whodunit’ book I have read, The Body In the Library was the perfect introduction in my opinion. The sinister characters… the perplexing scene of the crime – all captured my imagination and curiosity immediately. Being part of the popular Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie, I was originally concerned that starting a book in the middle of the series would be confusing, but the reader is welcomed to the story, warmly, and Christie lost no time in introducing the murder! Mrs Bantry is awoken from a pleasant dream under the impression that a servant has just been in to inform the couple of a body in the library! The Colonel is disbelieving at first, but eventually he is convinced enough to go downstairs and inquire into the matter. The staff of the house are gathered in the hallway and it seems Mrs Bantry hadn’t been dreaming as the butler confirmed as he asked the Colonel’s permission to phone the police. Certainly not the most ideal way to wake up on a morning! Anyway, the Police are informed and invited straight over, and Mrs Bantry asks over her old friend, taking into consideration Miss Marple’s previous success ‘with bodies’ as Bantry amusingly remarks.
The unique and baffling aspect of the murder is that the Bantry’s had no idea who the victim was that they so surprisingly found in their library. She is described to be a young blonde in cheap finery. Options are considered between Mrs Bantry and Miss Marple: perhaps the girl was the wife of a local troublemaker – Basil Blake? That was the most likely and suitable option, anyway, until Bantry and Marple pay their house a visit and it is discovered Basil’s wife is still very much ‘alive and in good condition’.
And then a report comes in that a girl is missing from a nearby hotel: The Majestic which meets the description of the Body found in the library! It had been Mr Jefferson (a guest at the Majestic) who had reported the non-appearance of Ruby Keene when the dancer had not turned up to show her second dance routine that evening at the entertainment. Ruby’s cousin, Josie, who also worked at the hotel as hostess of the game – Bridge, was questioned and retells the happenings of the previous evening to the Police and also her relationship with her cousin. Josie had asked Ruby to come up and help her out with her career, not long before the murder. Josie had slipped and hurt her ankle which made the dancing side of her career impossible, and so she asked Ruby to take over dancing for her at the hotel, and just continued herself in hosting the bridge.
Anyway, basicly Ruby had last been seen dancing with a man called George Bartlet on the night of the murder, who was then classed as a suspect along with two others. During the questioning it is revealed that Mr Jefferson, who was the person who alerted the police about the disappearance, was very fond of Ruby and was actually proposing to adopt the young girl which would also supply her with a fortune that was originally going to be left to Jefferson’s ‘in-laws’. Jefferson’s family was involved in an accident and both his children were killed, but their partners survived to be the old man’s only comfort – until Ruby Keene. And so now we have two suspects with a motive: Mark and Addie – Jefferson’s in-laws, who could have possibly wanted to kill Ruby so they could claim the fortune for themselves when the old man died?
The story is told with such effective simplicity: and it is so enjoyable to read. Nothing is too confusing or boring at any time. Christie equally spreads out the excitment – and then there is another death…! And a baffling one!
A young girl guide is found in a burnt out, charred car. And Miss Marple expects another death soon…
“A third? You don’t think there will be a third murder?”
“I think it’s just possible… Yes I think it’s highly possible.”
“Miss Marple.” said Sir Henry, “You frighten me. Do you know who is going to be murdered?”
Miss Marple said: “I’ve a very good idea.”
The story is excellent until the very end when an ingenious outcome is described. It all came down to the alibis. Engaging from start to finish. I also love how Christie tactfully praises herself occasionally, throughout the story:
“Do you – er – write detective stories?”
Miss Marple then modestly replies: “Oh no, I’m not clever enough for that…”