Body in the Library by Agatha Christie is an entertaining murder mystery with a lot of twists and turns. Plus an ending I did not see coming, from the queen of misdirection. This Miss Marple classic was published in 1942.
This is the first Miss Marple book I’ve read. She was a quirky and amusing character, but hard to like. She’s as classist as her writer. Her detective work is sociological, based on her experience of people and social tropes. A major plot point is solved based on Marple’s knowledge of how different classes of women do their nails.
Classism and Dark Humour
Miss Marple and Mrs Bantry aren’t trying to get justice for an innocent teenage girl who has been murdered. They’re trying to save Colonel Bantry’s social life.
A girl is dead, Jan.
Two girls, in fact, but it’s clear from the start that the murder of working class dancer Ruby doesn’t count. She is an anomaly; an incongruity; Mrs Bantry seems more indignant than distressed at the idea that her husband might carry on with a bottle blond in a crumpled white satin gown.
At one point a lead police officer even tells himself Ruby was asking for it – ‘it’ being her brutal, pointless murder. A disgusting yet still common attitude amongst the police towards women who fail to meet the mythical ‘good victim’ criteria.
I appreciate that part of this is the ghoulish black comedy Christie is so known and loved for, but it borders on nasty.
In the End
I quite enjoy Christie’s works, but the more books I read, the more I realise I like David Suchet’s Poirot, rather than Christie’s work. The writing is good fun and intelligent, but very of it’s time. She has utter contempt for anyone even vaguely left wing. She obviously despises the working class. Every character lower than aristocracy is a fool, a con artist or a criminal.
Again, maybe a product of the time it was written but I found it very difficult to sympathise with the Bantrys. I found myself sympathising far more with the quick witted, hard working murderer than I did with Marple, Bantry or even Conway, who strikes me as rather grasping.