For some reason The Body in the Library is one of the Christie book titles that stands out the most in my mind, although I’m not even sure that I’ve read a review of it. I somehow have the impression that it’s one of the quintessential Christie novels, which makes no sense because I don’t recall anyone really talking about it. But that’s kind of cool, because I have an early 1940s novel by an author in her prime, and I know next to nothing about it.
It may be the American in me, but whenever I hear “body in the library”, I always imagine a murder victim found in a town’s public library. I’ve read enough British books from the era to know better, but for some reason my mind always goes there. I can now confirm to you that the body in Christie’s novel is indeed found in the reading room of a country house, and not a building of the book lending variety. The owners of the estate are shocked to discover the corpse, as they both claim they’ve never seen the girl before. Things do look a bit grim for the man of the house, as it’s immediately assumed that someone knocked off his mistress.
This is a Miss Marple novel – only the second that I’ve read – and I have to say that nothing really stood out about it until the ending. Marple and a few detectives latch onto a circle of suspects at a nearby seaside hotel, dig into their backgrounds, and a seemingly fruitless investigation meanders for a hundred pages as it’s established that everyone has an air tight alibi. It’s all perfectly enjoyable Christie as you may expect from a book written at the time, but similar to Sad Cypress or Murder at Hazelmoor, the bulk of the story doesn’t have anything standout about it. Like those last two stories though, there is a clever solution to it all, and I was kicking myself for having suspected half of the misdirection but not putting the full thing together.
As far as Christie goes this feels like an insignificant work, although I’d take it any day over the output by most other authors. Miss Marple didn’t really stand out as a character, and if you cut out the fact that she solves the case, she’d probably be the least memorable of the cast. I think for now I like my Poirot, although we’ll see if that holds in the future.
I snagged a gorgeous 1945 Pocket Books edition, which easily has the best cover available. The book looks and feels absolutely mint, although I discovered that the binding was getting a bit separated from the opening pages. Paper glue, a fine-tipped paintbrush, and a night under some heavy books solved that issue, and the book is now in pristine shape. If you collect vintage paperbacks these are some cheap tools that can get your books into good form for reading, and saves you the irritating mess of trying to read a book while managing loose pages.