I’m not usually the biggest fan of Miss Marple – I much prefer Poirot who actually gets off his arse and does things instead of sitting there and piping up at the end that he knew it all along. Regardless, I really enjoyed The Body in the Library. It’s clever, amusing and much more interesting than some of the others.
It’s seven in the morning. The Bantrys wake to find the body of a young woman in their library. She is wearing evening dress and heavy make-up, which is now smeared across her cheeks. But who is she? How did she get there? And what is the connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are later discovered in an abandoned quarry? The respectable Bantrys invite Miss Marple to solve the mystery! before tongues start to wag.
To be honest, I think this may be the only Miss Marple book I’ve been impressed with. I love Poirot more than life itself, but Miss Marple just tends to sit there knitting while making obscure little remarks. The Body in the Library is completely different though – she takes an active role in investigations, while still comparing the victim to her sister’s neighbour’s maid’s cat or something similar.
“Downstairs in the lounge, by the third pillar from the left, there sits an old lady with a sweet, placid spinsterish face, and a mind that has plumbed the depths of human iniquity and taken it as all in the day’s work. Her name’s Miss Marple. She comes from the village of St Mary Mead, she’s a friend of the Bantrys – and where crime is concerned she’s the goods, Conway.”
I love how all the characters keep mentioning how the whole scandal ‘seems like something from a mystery novel!’ Ms. Christie states in the introduction how she wanted to take a mystery novel cliche (the body in the library, shockingly) and turn it on it’s head. As a result, all the characters seem to be in on the joke and it’s hilarious. In an earlier book, someboy states that Ariadne Oliver is the author of a book called ‘The Body in the Library,’ which apparently Ms. Christie ended up actually writing!
“I say, are you the detectives? I’m Peter Carmody. It was my grandfather, Mr Jefferson, who rang up the police about Ruby. Are you from Scotland Yard? You don’t mind my speaking to you, do you?”
Colonel Melchett looked as though he were about to return a short answer, but Superintendent Harper intervened. He spoke benignly and heartily.
“That’s all right, my son. Naturally interests you, I expect?”
“You bet it does. Do you like detective stories? I do. I read them all and I’ve got autographs from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie and Dickson Carr and H.C. Bailey.”
Aww. That actually made me smile. I think that’s the main reason I love the book though – Agatha Christie wrote it like she’s poking fun at herself and all the author mystery authors of her time.
And naturally the plot is as ingenious as ever – twists, red herrings, accused innocents and unexpected accomplices! I’ve always understood why Ms Christie is known as the Queen of Crime, but this book really confirms it for me. These books are always really hard to review, so excuse the brevity – I can’t talk about the plot without giving the twists away and the rest of it is very dialogue-based. Just trust me, and choose this one if you’re going to read a Marple.