Book Review: The Body in the Library

Author: Agatha Christie

Publisher: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1942

Genre: Mystery

My Rating: A+

I have been faithfully reading Agatha Christie’s novels in publication order. I’ve worked my way up to the late 1930s. Then I started to get bogged down. The stories were beginning to feel dark and sad. I know this time period was very sad in England and perhaps that was affecting Ms. Christie. I don’t know.

I decided to skip ten books ahead to a book that features Jane Marple. I’ve always enjoyed her lighthearted adventures. So I skipped ahead to 1942 to read this one.

The Body in the Library is a classic mystery. This one is, as you guessed, a story about a body in a library. For years Agatha Christie wanted to use this plot device. She wrote in her notebook:

 “I laid down for myself certain conditions. The library in question must be a highly orthodox and conventional library. The body, on the other hand, must be a wildly improbable and highly sensational body.”

Ms. Christie’s inspiration for this particular story came while she was dining at a seaside hotel. She observed a young family at a nearby table. Also at the table was an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair. That’s all it took. Ms. Christie’s imagination took off from there. Here’s how the story went –

The body discovered in the library was that of a platinum blond wearing a cheap white evening gown. The library belonged to Jane Marple’s good friends, Dolly and Arthur Bantry. She knew, of course, that her friends didn’t kill the young woman. They didn’t even know her.

The police learned the young woman was about to be adopted by a wealthy man in a wheelchair. Two of the young members of his family had good reason to want the young woman dead. They had, however, excellent alibis. Plus, another young woman is discovered dead. Can they be connected?

In this case our elderly spinster, Jane Marple, was quite welcome to become involved. Dolly Bantry invited Jane to help out on behalf of her husband. (She knew people would be spreading rumors about Arthur and the blond.) Miss Marple was also included by Sir Henry Clithering, a retired head at Scotland Yard. Sir Henry loved Miss Marple’s cunning ability to see the corrolaries between village life and suspects in a murder inverstigation. The police did good work in this case but naturally, Jane Marple figured it out early. She didn’t tell anyone until there was enough evidence.

Agatrha. Christie had a good time writing this one. It was very clever. She even added her own name into the story. A young boy was talking with one of the police detectives. The detective asked him if he had a natural interest in the murder. The young boy answered:

“You bet. Do you like detective stories? I do. I read them all, and I’ve got autographs from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie and Dickison Carr and H.C. Bailey. Will the murder be in the papers?”

I had a good time readng The  Body in the Library. The most puzzling question was how the body got into Dolly and Arthur’s library. I didn’t see it. Overall, I’m counting this as one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels. There were lots of twists in this one and I will strongly recommend it as a good mental exercise.

This is book number 30 for my Agatha Christie Reading Challenge sponsored by Kerrie at Mysteries In Paradise.


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14 Responses to Book Review: The Body in the Library

  1. YVONNE says:

    Hi Margot,

    First off, nice review with loads of great information.

    I love crime, mystery, thrillers the best of all. I do read some romance but it would never be my single favourite genre.

    I like my crime any way it comes, from the psychological kind with great plice procedural, through to the slightly ‘cozier’ kinds of cases where the mystery is the main focus rather than the gory details.

    I love Agatha Christie and read anything of hers that I could get my hands on when I was a teenager. I always make it a point never to read a book more than once, but it isn’t until I read other’s blogs about their favourite Christie books, that I realise just how many stories I have forgotten about over the years. I have decided that if I come across any Christie books on my travels, then I will buy and re-read them (the power of blogging strikes again). I have already re-visited ‘Evil Under The Sun’, which is a Hercule Poirot adventure and needless to say, I always try to watch any films or television re-runs that come along.

    Have a great weekend,


  2. Scoats says:

    I restarted rethinking my own Agatha Christie in order of publication project when I was mired in the early 1930s. But then something happened with Murder in Three Acts (1935). Christie got really good and didn’t really start to falter until he got into her 80s, though there is a masterpiece there too. So get to 1935 as quickly as you can, it will become clear sailing.

  3. Mary says:

    This sounds like a fun one (great review, by the way). I’m adding it to my list! I enjoyed Scoats’ comment too.

  4. I remain in awe that you are reading these in chronological order. I loved this book!

  5. Ti says:

    I do believe that what’s going on in an author’s life undoubtedly affect his or her writing. It has to! I have read and enjoyed Christie in the past but not for a really long time! I love all the new editions that are coming out. Some of the vintage covers are lovely!

  6. Interesting that the author’s work reflected the climate, and also that 1942 seemed less dark. I would think it would have been pretty darn dark for Brits at that time!

  7. Nan says:

    It is one of my favorites, too! I’m in awe of the woman. Interesting about the darkness. For me, the early 1940s books are dark.
    Do you suppose the word ‘spinster’ is still used? When I got married in London in 1977 that’s what I was called on the marriage certificate! I was 29. :<)

  8. I didn’t realize Christie’s books got dark but I guess it’s not surprising. The one sounds excellent.

  9. stacybuckeye says:

    An A+ is a good think to look forward to. I need to get moving on this challenge. So many great mysteries to look forward to.

  10. kaye says:

    this title reminds me of the “Clue” game. I often wondered if they came up with that game from an Agatha Christie Novel

  11. JoAnn says:

    Another Agatha Christie title for my growing list… thanks, Margot.

  12. My mom and I are re-reading all of Agatha Christie’s books in publication order, too! We’re back at the beginning, though – I’m about to start Murder on the Links, her third book. It’s been so long since I’ve read it that I’ve forgotten the identity of the murderer, which is nice – I’ll be able to try and solve the puzzle all over again!

  13. Kerrie says:

    This is a great insight Margot with the snippets about Christie’s inspiration for this book. Thanks for continuing to support the blog carnival. I’m glad you found the Mr Linky easier to deal with.

  14. I wonder if the trend will continue, with less dark stories now that you’re out of the 30s. I’ve read only two Agatha Christie books (both Hercule Poirot stories), and enjoyed them both.

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