Agatha Christie may be a bit of an institution, but in all my years of reading The Body in the Library is the first book of hers I’ve picked up.
And boy, was it a treat.
Colonel and Mrs Bantry wake up one morning to discover there is a body in their library. Once they’ve realised it’s reality, not fiction, the police are called in to try and solve the crime. Not content, Mrs Bantry gets her old friend Miss Marple in to act as a consultant and try and pin down the killer.
I always thought Christie must be a good writer – she’d have to be to be so successful still – but it was only on reading The Body in the Library that I realised how good she is. In this time where it seems one story has to be told in at least three books, or one very, very long book, Christie tells The Body in the Library in a taut 160 pages (in my edition). The plot is well-paced, it never feels rushed but at the same time there’s always something happening – some character revelation, a conversation that you just know is going to be pertinent later on.
Also, the book is funny! Absolutely, unexpectedly so in many places. There were bits that made me chuckle, bits that made me laugh, bits that made me smile. It was a lovely reminder that a murder mystery doesn’t need to be overwhelmingly dark to be
I also loved how The Body in the Library felt not much like reading, and more like watching a television programme or a film. It was easy to see how the story and dialogue could be lifted right off the page and onto the screen. In fact, the ‘big reveal’ scene played out just like an old fashioned murder mystery television programme, something akin to Columbo.
And then there’s the mystery itself. Miss Marple has it solved in about five minutes, but I felt like the police officers the book closely followed – absolutely clueless and looking in all the wrong places, but feeling it was right. Christie draws together the various threads she’s woven throughout the book in a clever way, presenting me with a conclusion I just didn’t see coming.
I’m a little ashamed that it’s taken me this long to get round to reading a Christie mystery, but I can now hold my hands up and say I’m a convert. Hopefully I’ll be better at solving the next crime I read about.