Tuesday, December 18, 2012

THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY by Agatha Christie

“The trouble in this case is that everybody has been much too credulous and believing. You simply cannot afford to believe everything that people tell you. When there’s anything fishy about, I never believe anyone at all! You see, I know human nature so well.” 

Plot and puzzle trump character in Agatha Christie’s The Body in the Library.

Colonel and Mrs. Bantry’s maid finds a murdered woman on the hearth rug in the library. At first, no one knows who the young woman is.

After a while, the victim’s sister identifies the victim. She is a young woman who has come recently to town.

Later, there is a second murder. The two murders seem unrelated, but, of course, things aren’t as they seem. Both murders involve the nature of small towns.

“One does see so much evil a in village,” Miss Marple says at one point.

Jane Marple, the innocuous looking little lady with the cynical attitude and sharp mind, solves the case. As always, she solves it while the police and the experts are off chasing wild geese.

I’ve often wondered if Miss Marple is Agatha Christie in disguise. I like her so much more than I do Hercule Poirot.

Miss Marple seems to be a real person, not a collection of “little grey cells.” She uses her knowledge of people and of small towns, not her pure reason, to solve crimes.

I used to read Agatha Christie a lot. Finally, I came to favor books which had more fully developed characters.

Surely Agatha Christie is one of the premier writers in the history of  the mystery novel. After all, she wrote books which I always saw as breaking new ground. She wrote books where everybody did it, the narrator did it, and one of the victims did it.

She wrote books where the murders occurred in closed places like trains and isolated islands. And she created two of the most memorable characters in all of fiction. 

Agatha Christie could write about incredible evil. Her Christmas Hercule Poirot book was that kind of book.

So The Body in the Library is a typical, classic Agatha Christie. In its solution it could well be another one of Christie's ground breaking books. Far be it from me to figure out who did it. Yet Miss Marple seemed to know almost all the way along.

Nowadays I read about one Agatha Christie a year. I read a whole bunch of them when I was growing up, but I won’t run out of new ones to read. Agatha Christie wrote prolifically and well.  


pattinase (abbott) said...

I read every one of them in my twenties. But I rarely revisit her-or anyone for that matter. So little time--so many books. But I am rereading WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN A CASTLE. It is brilliant. I didn't appreciate it enough when first I read it.

Joe Barone said...

I didn't read them all, but I read a lot of them. I've put WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN A CASTLE on my TBR list. Thanks.

Richard R. said...

I like this one a lot, or did when I read it 20 years ago, and should re-read it.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Asa a kind I always preferred the Poirot books as I thought they had the stronger plots and had better clues as Miss Marple does seem to require divine intervention to reach some of her conclusion - but one the other hand A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED and BODY IN THE LIBRARY (a classic GAD sounding title if ever there was one) are both superbly and wonderfully realised - great choice Joe.

Joe Barone said...

Richard, As I said above, I think this had another one of those unusual unexpected twists that Agatha Christie is so good at.

Sergio, The more I thought about it, the more groundbreaking I thought this book might be.