Review: The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Opening sentence: “Mrs Bantry was dreaming.”

Happy days! After a run of not-brilliant Agatha Christie reads, I find her back on form with The Body in the Library, a Miss Marple mystery. This is only my third Miss Marple read (after Sleeping Murder and The Mirror Crack’d from Side-to-Side) and I’m enjoying discovering more of her no-nonsense character. She plays the ‘Who, me? But-I’m-just-an-innocent-old-lady’ card to a tee.

The Body in the Library Agatha Christie book review

I picked up this classic murder mystery as part of Read Christie 2020. The Body in the Library is the May read along choice and this book had everything I love about Agatha’s style. Plot-wise she takes us straight into the action when Colonel and Mrs Bantry of Gossington Hall find the body of a young lady sprawled across the hearth rug in their library.

Mrs Bantry is a friend of Miss Marple’s, so calls her over at once to cast her eye over things. Miss Marple is known by the local police as having a bit of a penchant for solving crimes, so they are more than happy to hear her thoughts and take her advice. As Superintendant Harper says to her:

‘Speaking as Watson, I want to know your methods, Miss Marple.’

As the investigation progresses and the identity of the woman in the library is established, we meet a host of potential suspects and a tight, clever plotline about reputations and not taking facts at face value is revealed. The Bantrys claim to have no idea who the dead woman in their house is, but is this true?

‘One does see so much evil in a village,’ murmured Miss Marple in an explanatory voice.

As with all murder-mysteries, your mind flits between the suspects and you try to guess who done it, but, as in all good Agatha novels, she whips the rug out from under you at the last minute and leaves you with a wry smile on your face.

This book worked for me as the pace was perfect, info is revealed at snappy intervals to keep you riveted and the overall tone is dry, witty, has funny dialogue between characters and delightful self-deprecating moments. Such as when Colonel Bantry says:

 Bodies are always being found in libraries in books. I’ve never known a case in real life.

Or when one of the characters asks:

Do you like detective stories? I do. I read them all, and I’ve got autographs from Dorothy Sawyers and Agatha Christie and Dickson Carr and H.C. Bailey.

The crime writer character Ariadne Oliver is Agatha’s own caricature in the Poirot novels and the I love the fact that here she just gets rid of all pretence and refers directly to herself. Truly the mark of a legend and the sort of move that reminds me why I love her.

There is a wonderful link here too, in the Poirot novel, Cards on the Table, it mentions a book written by Ariadne Oliver called… The Body in the Library; Christie evidently loved the title so much she used it six years later, for this Miss Marple story. 

The Body in the Library was exactly the cosy yet clever murder-mystery I needed to read right now. It makes me think Miss Marple’s back catalogue is the way I go with my Christie reads from here. I’d like to spend a little more time in her company.

  • First published in February 1942
  • 224 pages
  • My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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