The Bodies in the Library
The Bodies in the Library takes place against a background based on the long history of female-written mysteries, which is highlighted through a lead character who hasn’t read any of them. I found this an odd choice, but I loved the setting.
Hayley Burke is the new curator for the First Edition Society, established when a rich woman who collected books by the women who wrote during the Golden Age of Mystery passed away. Hayley doesn’t know anything about Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and the others, having never before read a detective story, so the only contribution she’s made yet is inviting a group of fanfic authors to use the library for their weekly meeting. Unfortunately, one of them gets killed on the premises.
Finding a body in the library finally spurs Hayley to read the Miss Marple The Body in the Library, and she is inspired to start investigating on her own.
I loved that there were a lot of women characters — so many that I occasionally got aspects of Hayley, Harry, Amanda, Adele, Audrey, Pauline, Maureen, and Lulu confused — but I would have liked to have seen more involvement with the classic genre. Also, all the characters are lightly sketched, without too much depth or uniqueness. They’re more puzzle pieces than people.
I liked that the writers, although creating some exaggerated concepts, weren’t made fun of, and that the co-worker spinster became a friend, not an enemy. Some of the cliches of the modern cozy make their appearance — a deadbeat ex, an inattentive boyfriend, the evil relative threatening the heroine’s workplace, getting attacked by the villain to finally solve the murder — but the idea of this library, and the chance to dream of visiting something like it in Bath, England, makes for nice escapism.
The Bodies in the Library is the first in Marty Wingate’s series “First Edition Library Mysteries”, with the second, Murder Is a Must, coming in October. That one revolves around a Peter Wimsey title, which I’m eager to see, since I’ve always enjoyed that series. (And Hayley’s cat is named Bunter, the same as Lord Wimsey’s faithful valet.)