jade_glow (jade_glow) wrote in bookish,

9,10- The Sittaford Mystery, The Body in the Library

The Sittaford Mystery
Agatha Christie

Silhoutted arounf the table, tense with anticipation, were seated six shadowy figures. They were involved in a seance... The table began to rock violently and, gradually, began to form the words: 'CAPTAIN TREVELYAN...DEAD' and then, much more slowly this time, M-U-R-D-E-R

Only a few miles away, Captain Trevalyn knew nothing of the strange seance at Sittaford... (Taken from The Sittaford Mystery)

This is the first Christie novel to include the supernatural and the objects which bring on illumination as to the identity of the murderer are a pair of ski boots and a speck of soot.

I GUESSED THIS ONE RIGHT! Despite that though, this one isn't really my favourite. It might have been because I read the Murder of Roger Ackroyd over again right before picking this up, but this fell a little flat. The characters are interesting, but there are a wide span of suspects, which takes away a little from te charm.

The Body in the Library
Agatha Christie

This is a Marple one, and it's filled with her usual charm. It's always amusing when confronted  with a scene  where baffled police officers forced to listen to her, "And then of course he reminded me of the baker's boy. Terribly dishonest young man, you know..." Coupled with her knowledge of human nature and her usual perspicacity, Miss Jane Marple assists Sir Henry Clithering and Colonel Melchett in solving the case of the body in the library.

On a quiet morning in the fictional English village of St. Mary Mead, retired Colonel Bantry and his wife awaken to find the body of a young woman, whom they do not know, in their library. The police are called and a complex investigation ensues, spanning the two fictional counties of Radfordshire (where St. Mary Mead is located) and neighbouring Glenshire.

The victim is dressed flamboyantly in a tawdry satin evening dress, with hair dyed platinum blonde and heavy make-up. Medical tests show the cause of death to be strangulation, preceded by a heavy sedative. Despite the worldly appearance of the victim, examination reveals that she died virgo intacta. Nevertheless, Mrs Bantry realises that as long as the murder remains unsolved her husband will be a target for suspicion and gossip, so she calls in Miss Marple, the village's amateur sleuth, to investigate. It soon turns out that Mrs Bantry's fears were justified, as the populace of the small village exaggerate and create details of the crime – very soon the body is "naked" rather than fully clothed – and unhesitatingly point the finger of blame at Colonel Bantry.

After some deliberation, and the news has broke to many people, all their eyes are turned on the Colonel.The Chief Constable of police, a retired Colonel himself (Colonel Melchett), is more inclined to suspect Bantry's Bohemian young neighbour, Basil Blake. The latter is a minor technician in the film industry who lives the ostentatious, party-going lifestyle of a Hollywood star. Blake, however, is given an alibi for the time of death (between 10 pm and midnight) by his girlfriend Dinah Lee (who in reality is his secret wife).

After numerous enquiries about missing persons, the victim is identified as eighteen-year old Ruby Keene, a professional dancer working at the Majestic Hotel in the seaside resort of Danemouth, 18 miles away in Glenshire. The body is identified by Ruby's cousin and colleague Josie Turner, who rather than being shocked or upset seems unaccountably angry at the dead girl. Josie relates that she was forced to hire Ruby to take over some of her duties at the resort (performance dancing in particular) after Josie suffered a sprained ankle.

The focus of the investigation then shifts from St. Mary Mead to Danemouth, and the Majestic Hotel in particular. Besides Josie, the other staff member of interest to the police is Ruby's professional dance partner, Raymond Starr, who also works as the hotel's tennis coach. It was when Ruby failed to turn up for an exhibition dance with Starr scheduled for midnight that her disappearance was discovered. The last person to have seen Ruby alive was one of the guests, a rather dim-witted young man named George Bartlett. Bartlett has no obvious motive for murder, and in fact appears to be the victim of a crime himself – his car has been stolen from the hotel courtyard.

There is a rather strange group of guests at the hotel whose lives seem to have become entwined with that of the late Ruby Keene. The centre of this group is a rich, elderly, wheelchair-bound man named Conway Jefferson, who lost his legs in a plane crash that also claimed the lives of his wife, son and daughter. He now lives with Mark Gaskell, his daughter's widower, Adelaide Jefferson, his son's widow, and Peter Carmody, Adelaide's nine-year old son from an earlier marriage. All four members of the family are staying at the hotel together.

Conway Jefferson had become smitten by the naïve young Ruby, in what Christie describes as Cophetua syndrome. Jefferson, who has a weak heart and is not expected to live much longer, had decided to adopt Ruby as his daughter and amend his will such that she would receive the bulk of his estate. Jefferson had provided his son and daughter with large sums before their deaths, and he believes that Mark and Adelaide are rich enough to require no further bequest from him. In fact this is untrue, since the bulk of their fortunes have been squandered and they are far more dependent on Jefferson than he realises.

The situation becomes more complicated when the burnt-out wreck of George Bartlett's car is found, with a second murder victim inside it. This body is charred beyond recognition, but on the basis of fragments of clothing it is identified as Pamela Reeves, a sixteen year old Girl Guide who had been reported missing earlier. It soon emerges that Pamela had arranged to attend a secret "screen test" with a man whom she believed to be a Hollywood film producer, but who appears to fit the description of Basil Blake. Pamela never returned from this covert rendezvous.

By this point of the novel all the essential elements are in place. There are two bodies, one of which is so badly burnt that the possibility of a body-swap cannot be discounted. There are numerous suspects (Colonel Bantry, Basil Blake, Josie Turner, Raymond Starr, George Bartlett, Mark Gaskell and Adelaide Jefferson), several of whom are so strongly implicated that they must either have been involved in one or both of the murders, or have been deliberately framed by the true killer

From Wikipedia

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