March 27, 2016

Book Review || The Body in the Library

The Body in the Library
Miss Marple #2
Agatha Christie

Originally published in 1942 (Review edition reprinted in 2002)

HarperCollins, mass market, 272 p.
ISBN: 0-00-712083-4

It's seven in the morning.  The Bantrys have awoken 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's the connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are later discovered in an abandoned quarry?  The alarmed Bantrys invite Jane Marple to solve the mystery, before tongues start to wag. . . 

Yes, I know I'm so late in reviewing my February pick for A Year of Marple, but honestly I just wasn't feeling it last month.  However, with the lovely stormy weather I'm enjoying for Easter, it is finally cosy mystery time.  So with that in mind, I picked The Body in the Library up last night and powered through, finishing it in one session... yeah me!

I will state right off the bat that I have always loved the TV adaptations of this particular book, however unlike Murder at the Vicarage, I also enjoyed the original story itself.  So it wasn't a great surprise when I had to scramble to find some paper so I could jot down some notes to myself.  Such is the life of a reader.

... and this is why I usually have an old envelope, or two, handy!

The 1950's feel of the book is very much present.  Clothing and class distinctions are very much of the era, which is no surprise given it was written over 70 years ago.  If you are not familiar with some of the rigid, and tightly held to, prejudices of the day, then you may not pick up on some of the underlying, and subtly hinted at, tensions (such as Colonel Bantrys reactions before and after the revelation of Basil Blake's past injury) but it shouldn't detract from the overall storyline if you are not.

In regards to Christie's style of writing itself, one of the things I enjoyed was the multiple POVs - which was surprising as I usually hate that! - and while there are quite a few differences between the TV adaptations and the novel, it wasn't enough that I couldn't cope with the shift in the storyline.  I was, however, quite surprised to see how little a part Basil Blake played in the novel, and yet this character's involvement with Ruby Keene is always at the forefront of any adaptations investigation into who killed the her.  Strange, but true.

Speaking of characters.  I adored seeing more of Sir Henry Clithering.  He is such a dear.  I love this character as he isn't as pompous or arrogant as the other males that deal with Miss Marple tend to be.  The retired former head of Scotland Yard could have been an arrogant cross between Inspector Slack and Conway Jefferson in personality, but instead we have a shrewd yet personable gentleman - just what you need when dealing with Miss Marple.  He understands her, which is a step up from the other neanderthals in the police force, and is demonstrated when he asks her for the "Village parallel, please".  Such a pity that he didn't end up in the 2004 adaptation with Geraldine McEwan.

The other main characters were well done, and played off each other nicely.  There was not one particular character that was horrible, or that I hated - although Inspector Slack comes close as I really do not like his attitude - and yet if you did not know anything about the story, there is nothing to give the culprit away either.  The scene with Basil Blake confessing to Miss Marple about his drunken prank seems to come out of the blue, plot wise, and there is also a few snippets from Raymond Starr that I have never seen in an adaptation.  Was this a very well crafted whodunit, or a story that is missing elements?  I'm still not sure which, but I had a good time anyway.

This would be a great book to start with if you like classic whodunits, or are curious about the Miss Marple universe.  There is more action and odd tangled threads that should appeal to mystery readers. 

I hope enjoyed my review of The Body in the Library.  It was a fun read, and I'd love to know what you though of the book, or any of the adaptations.

The next book in my A Year of Marple is The Moving Finger, which I hope to get up during the week.

Until next time, my lovelies.

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