Publisher: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1942
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.