Goodreads: The Body in the Library
Series: Miss Marple #3
Age Category: Adult
One morning, the Bantrys awake to find a girl dead in their library. No one in the household knows who she is. To stop the local gossip, Mrs. Bantry enlists the help of her old friend Miss Marple, who must solve the case before the scandal ruins the Bantrys’ reputations forever.
The Body in the Library is my second Miss Marple novel, and I had no idea what to expect. While Murder at the Vicarage is told in first person by the vicar, this follow-up takes a turn by presenting the case in third person inside. Perspective shifts between Miss Marple and the inspectors on the case remove some of the charm found in a more personal account, while also making some of the story feel a bit redundant. While I still enjoyed the mystery, The Body in the Library probably will not end up on the top of my favorites list.
For some reason, I had supposed that Miss Marple mysteries might be told in turn by various locals who know the keen spinster. I was not expecting the shift to third person in this book, and I found it much less engaging than the vicar’s narrative, which includes many insightful and witty character observations. The trouble is that Miss Marple, as an amateur sleuth, does not possess the resources of the police force and has to pursue her own lines of investigation. So, to ensure that readers understand how Miss Marple put her case together, the book will often describe how the police uncover information or evidence, and then switch to a chapter of Miss Marple finding out the same thing through her own means. Perhaps readers are meant to be charmed by how Miss Marple uses her wits to uncover clues, in contrast to the official way of doing things. But it all feels rather redundant.
Aside from this, however, the book contains the usual witty characterizations from Christie that make her books shine. Mrs. Bantry’s excitement over having an actual murder in her house, while quite inappropriate, also seems awfully true to life. As does a young boy’s fascination with the murder and his desire to collect mementos to show to his friends. People are not always pretty, but Christie is willing to show all their facets in a way that still feels incredibly modern. Change a few details about how life used to be, and such a story feels like it could be set in the present day.
While I am not convinced that The Body in the Library is a book I shall reread, I enjoyed testing my wits against Christie’s once more. Her works tend to surprise me more often than not, and I love reading mysteries where I have to remain in suspense until the very end. I certainly shall keep on reading through the Miss Marple stories, ready to see an overlooked spinster beat the professionals once again.