January 2014 Book of the Month: The Body in the Library

TuppenceTuppence City of London, United Kingdom
This month we're reading one of the finest of Miss Marple's cases, The Body in the Library, which also happens to be a favourite of British actor and comedian, David Mitchell.

Leave your comments and questions on the story here. Was this your first Miss Marple mystery? If not, how does it compare to the others you've read?


  • glalonzo0408glalonzo0408 Pennsylvania, United States
    Love this book.....will enjoy seeing what others think... :o3
  • This was the first full length Miss Marple I read. It's remained one of my absolute favourites. When I began to read it I found it hard to put down. By the end I was frantic to find out the solution. I wasn't disappointed by the ending. 

    SPOILERS: I didn't guess the murderers because of course they had alibis . I think this is one of the best examples of suspects ruled out who turn out to be guilty. I found so many of the characters interesting. There's many red herrings, in particular the body being found at Basil Blake's home. 

    I think this is a book that works best with Miss Marple solving the crime. She noticed clues, seemingly small details that the detectives didn't. Such as paying attention to nail clippings and slightly worn dresses. Plus people tell seemingly harmless Miss Marple, things that they wouldn't tell to the police. 

  • I will try to buy and read. It seems to be a very good book. I hope I like it. :D
  • glalonzo0408glalonzo0408 Pennsylvania, United States
    I will try to buy and read. It seems to be a very good book. I hope I like it. :D
    I have no doubt that you will....ENJOY
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I do like this one, I like the fact it is set in St Mary Mead and so has Dolly Bantry, which gives it that Coziness, but I think A Murder Is Announced, 4.50 From Paddington and Sleeping Murder are slightly better, We have a Gossington Hall near us, I love the BBC Version and but not the ITV version, David Walliams and Ian Richardson and the boy are Great though.
  • SheriBethSheriBeth Georgia, United States
    This is one of my very favorite Agatha Christie books!  I just read it last summer, but I'll happily read it again during cold and dreary January!  Love that David Mitchell likes it too!   ;)
  • kaberi.chakrabartykaberi.chakrabarty Illinois, United States
    I had read this book many years ago but don't really remember the details so am enjoying reading it again. Just started rereading it today. Initial reactions: It's evident that Christie is really having fun with taking an old mystery fiction cliche and making a decent story out of it. So many references to detective fiction in general and how odd it would be to have such a thing really happen. Very "meta", as the kids would say nowadays.
    Also, as soon as I started reading about the "third housemaid" and the butler I couldn't help but think of Downton Abbey. Anybody fancy Dame Maggie Smith as Miss Marple?
  • ZeddieZeddie Ballymoney, United Kingdom
    I absolutely love this book!! This and Murder at the Vicarage are my favourite Miss Marple stories.
    My favourite Agatha Christie stories have always been the one's where the murderer seemingly has an alibi ( Evil under the sun being another). 
    I have always liked Dolly Bantry and her relationship with Miss Marple and i think this was played brilliantly by Geraldine McEwan & Joanna Lumley in the ITV adaptation. I dont really understand why they felt the need to change one of the murderers but it still worked very well. 
  • SPOILERS!!!! I liked the McEwan Version of Body In The Library -up until the very end. How could they change the murderers?  I have no idea why, but it did generate some controversy. I think it may have backfired though because I know fans who didn't want to watch Marple afterwards. It might be that the person who played the original killer didn't have enough acting experience. It fairness it would be a difficult part to play. But then they if that is the reasons, they should have thought of that when casting! 

    I think Joanna Lumley is wonderful to as Dolly Bantry. 

    I really dislike the Hickson version of Body In The Library.  Normally I love the Hickson versions, she is my favourite Miss Marple. But it was agonizingly slow. The way they re-acted to the body being found was drawn out and rang false. There was a strange character added who gave nothing to the plot. Plus Ruby wore the most terrible platinum blonde wig! 

  • dispensarynursedispensarynurse Pennsylvania, United States
    edited January 2014
    I've read the Nov and Dec books of the month and for this one I figured I should get into it and post on the message board!

    I'm only about 2 chapters into this but I am happy to say it is much more captivating than I remember. I listened to the audiobook of this several years ago and while good, it never made my top 10 or top 20 even. I did recently watch the Geraldine McEwan version and even though certain things were altered it didn't stop me from wanting to read the book because I knew what I had just watched was going to be different from what I am currently reading. Plus it gives me some good visuals while reading along.

    Marple is my favorite Christie character and I look forward to getting into this book. I should also mention, I'm surprised by how thin the book is. From all the twists and turns I know this book has, I expected a lot more volume to it. I like fast-paced books and hope this one stays as exciting as I think it will be!
  • One of my favorites. The sprightly twosome- Miss  Marple and Mrs. Bantry- their camaraderie is so endearing. And I love the way genteel manner in which the two flaunt rules to see the body . The rural ambience is very well depicted in this novel and once again we see how Miss Marple relies on the pulse of the community to carry on her investigations.
  • svcodemansvcodeman Pennsylvania, United States
    I loved this book when I read it....I read it over a year ago, and I love watching the adaptation of it! One of the best Christie's
  • Mrs. Bantry is a great character, I agree.  This book reminds me of 4:50 from Paddington and the pairing of Miss Marple with Lucy Eyelesbarrow.
  • You are right Jessica. Miss Marple does very good teamwork. With Lucy she was a mentor and a guardian, but she treated Lucy as an equal in intellect. In The Body in the Library, it is heartwarming to see her friendship for Mrs. Bantry. Also her sensitivity to the nuances of village life, which although meaningless to an outsider, would be of utmost importance to the residents. Hence her anxiety for the subtle social ostracism that Colonel Bantry faces. And of course her comfortable equation with the legal bigwigs. She has them eating out of her hands.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    It is also like the pairing of Miss Marple and Bunch A Murder Is Announced and Sanctuary
  • I agree, Debaleena, and it's just as heartwarming to see Mrs. Bantry's friendship for Miss Marple.  She trusts her and takes her advice, even though it means going off and leaving Col. Bantry.  Dolly has such faith in her friend's abilities to solve this mystery...more confidence than in the police, and it gives us another perspective of Miss Marple in seeing her through her friend's eyes.  The only other book in which we see Miss Marple with her childhood peers/girlfriends/contemporaries is They Do it with Mirrors, but it's not really the same cozy friendship as what she has with her village friend Dolly Bantry. If you want to count Lady Selena, Miss Marple's friend from ages ago, who appears in At Bertram's Hotel, even she doesn't seem to shed much light on Miss Marple's personality.  She is merely a convenient means of putting the bug in Marple's ear about recognizing people.  
  • And Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy in 4.50 From Paddington. In this book the two are like 'partners in crime' , in cahoots to solve the mystery. They are like a pair of youthful adventurers in their excitement. I have always found that last  scene great fun.
  • SerourBSerourB Essex, United Kingdom
    I finally have all 85 books - HINT get them off ebay- this book is my next victim in my list :D I hope its gana be goooodd
  • StuartBarnettStuartBarnett Connecticut, United States
    I really like how AC registers the social history of England by having Dolly return in The Mirror Crack'd. Though this time, Gossington has been sold (to wealthy Americans, of course) as it is far too big to keep up. So Dolly lives in the lodge of the estate. Similar scenario with Amy Folliat in Dead Man's Folly. A nice way to register how the great country estates had become no longer feasible for many of their owners. Something one suspects AC was conscious of herself as the owner of Greenway. She is quite pointed in her autobiography about referring to herself as a tradesman. Thus she is someone who worked for the money to buy a place like Greenway; she was not 'born to the manor.'  
    I also like how this is an interesting variant on the AC's great concern with the innocent. Both Marple and Dolly know that if the case is not solved, everyone will assume the Col has something to do with it. The Col is so clueless that he may not even get this for a while. But they know the resulting social ostracism will destroy him. In a way, his lack of awareness makes him innocent in all senses of the term. 
  • edited January 2014
    To continue with Stuart's point of view, we are once again shown how very well acquainted Miss Marple is with evil. She does not believe in denial of evil .In fact there is something that her nephew Raymond once said about her- that her mind is like a sink.... Indeed she has the best filter that a human being can have, a conscience and common sense. That is why she is so fiercely protective towards Col. Bantry, who is unaware of evil as an everyday reality. She always reminds me of the lines-"- if what is evil / Be real, why not known, since easier shunned?"

  • kaberi.chakrabartykaberi.chakrabarty Illinois, United States
    I also notice in this book that we see Christie depict children, especially boys, like 9 year old Peter Carmody, as being fascinated with murders and police work and interested in finding clues to solving murders that they are distantly involved in. In American literature, you rarely see children being comfortable with, or interested in, police work. There are, of course, novels for children that show children behaving like detectives (the Encyclopedia Brown books, for instance, or Harriet the Spy) but those books are intended for children and rarely show children intervening in a genuine police murder investigation. And as a schoolteacher, I find it hard to imagine a student of mine, if they were involved in a murder case, no matter how distantly. When Peter found the fingernail, I couldn't help thinking that in today's media, if a child did have something like that, they might conceivably show it off to their friends, but they would never casually show it off to the police, and if they did, the police would nab it and have forensic scientists all over it. But I can think of at least two Christie novels (The Clocks and Halloween Party) where children behave this way.
  • 3rdGirl3rdGirl New South Wales, Australia
    A Classic and one of the best Marples out. I love Miss M and Dolly Bantry together and their friendship as well. 

    Village life and the great English hotel are both depicted well in this book
  • To be completely honest, I found this to be one of Christie's middle of the range novels. Still well and truly worth reading, especially if you're a Marple fan but it lacked the wow factor that is present in so many of her books. Feel free to disagree!

    Funny though, maybe I just don't enjoy Miss Marple books as much as Christie's others, because when I read 4.50 from Paddington I found it to be a little disappointing and the solution a bit far fetched, and yet, it is one of the most popular of the books with Miss Marple. 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

    I can see that Body In The Library can be Average all though It is a Brilliant Idea and I love the fact It is set in St May Mead and There is a House near me with the same name as The Bantry's House.

    I love the Miss Marple Books, They Do It With Mirrors is Not Great and I don't think Caribbean Mystery is only a bit better but I think they are still worth reading, Sorry If that sounds Contradictory, I am a HUGE Miss Marple Fan, I think there are too many Poirot's.

  • kaberi.chakrabartykaberi.chakrabarty Illinois, United States
    So, what is it about Miss Marple that appeals to you, versus Poirot?
  • WillowRoseWillowRose Washington, United States

    Summary:  Colonel & Mrs. Bantry greeted on an unremarkable morning by their maid’s agitated words, “…there’s a body in the library.” (pg. 2). A young woman with bleached blonde hair, loud make up and a cheap satin evening dress has been placed in the most traditional library in St. Mary Mead. While The Colonel retreats, his wife is thrilled to be in the center of the excitement. Putting her sleuthing cap on she and her good friend Miss Marple set off at once to the Majestic Hotel, where the dead girl worked and set out to solve her murder.

    Review: I enjoyed reading this installment in the Miss Marple mysteries. It still surprises me the difference in story telling techniques she used, vs. what I am expecting. In this case, the fact Miss Marple doesn’t appear as often as you would think in the stories, and yet is key to arriving on the accurate conclusion. I love it! I also love matching wits with both Christie & Marple to see if I can figure out the culprit is before the end of the book.

    When Christie penned this book, finding a body in a library was already considered a cliché in the detective world. Christie thought about this book for years, believing just the right body needed to be found in just the right library, and I think she nailed it. The long tradition of finding a murder in a library setting has lived on (it is surprising that people still feel safe in them considering how many crimes of any kind have been fictionalized between these sacred walls) in both books and television series; Hazel Holt, Margaret Truman, David Baldacci, CSI: Las Vegas, the board game Clue (or Clue the film for that matter), and many more. Current biblio mysteries trace their roots back to this well-loved cliché, murders set within a book shop, book or with a librarian sleuth.

    One detail which struck a note with me pertained to the character Mr. Jefferson, who had lost both his son and daughter years earlier in a plane crash. Survived by their respective spouses, Mr. Jefferson remarked, “… but you must remember that Mr. Gaskell and Mrs. Jefferson aren’t, strictly speaking, my family. They’re not blood relations.” (pg. 69). All that is missing from this quote - but is implied -  is the statement, ‘they’re not really family‘. While things change, some things always stay the same. This sentiment, written 71 years ago is still prevalent one, this idea of children by marriage as being less than.

    From my blog: My 52 Weeks With Christie

  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I like Miss Marple over Poirot because Most of the books are set in England and some reflect an Idealistic time which if ever existed is long gone which is comforting and Cozy, with most of the books you don't venture far out of the Village or Town where the Action takes place, even though I have a least favourite I know I am going to settle down to read a really good book with Miss Marple. but that might just be down to the fact threre are so many Poirot's so more chance to read one which doesn't suit. 
  • What I love best about the Miss Marples is their portrayal of village life.  Since I'm an American, I don't know how accurate that portrayal was - can any Brits weigh in on this?  I love Christie's references to the fish monger (who often brings the news of the latest murder), the "tweenies", the vicarage sherry parties, etc. as well as Agatha's nostalgic references in later books to how things had changed in St. Mary Meade. 

  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    The Miss Marple Books (Except Caribbean Mystery which is set abroad) is a Reminder of Halcyon Days of a Time that didn't really exist but we all seem to remember in our Romantic subconscious to make ourselves feel good.
  • edited February 2014
    The Body in the Library is one of my favourites and I have created a miniature diorama to celebrate its fabulousness!  image   You can see it here on my blog page too:


    I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed creating it :)

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