Bodies In The Stacks

Here’s a bit of ‘Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick’.  The bodies are all definitely in the library. Little did I know when I chose this theme two months ago, that a headline of the Toronto Globe & Mail, on 02 December 2010, would read “Man Killed in Library with Crossbow”. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.

Blind Justice – by Bruce Alexander. “There has been a shooting at Lord Goodhope’s residence.  He himself is apparently the victim.”  Masterfully written, this historical mystery is also a ‘locked room’ mystery.  The body is in the library at the London residence of Lord Goodhope.  First considered a suicide, it quickly becomes evident that it is a case of murder.  Then it turns out that the victim was apparently “murdered” twice.  First he was poisoned, and then he was shot.  Sir John Fielding, founder of London’s first police force, the Bow Street Runners, sorts out this complex and very satisfying case.

The Burglar in the Library – by Lawrence Block. It sounds like an English country manor mystery, complete with an English-style inn, snowbound guests for the weekend and bodies all over the place.  The first one appears in the library, done in by a camel and a pillow. And they continue to pile up.  But as Bernie Rhodenbarr (burglar, bookseller and sleuth) says, “…this isn’t a cozy little English murder case at all, it’s tough and hardboiled and it’s not going to be solved by pussyfooting around like Miss Jane Marple or Lord Peter Wimsey.  This is Philip Marlowe’s kind of caper.”

The Body in the Library – by Agatha Christie. A platinum blond is dead on the hearth-rug in Colonel Bantry’s library.  She was sedated and then strangled.  The Colonel’s wife calls upon her friend, Miss Jane Marple, to help solve the crime. It’s typical Christie: multiple victims, multiple policemen investigating, multiple suspects with alibis (if the time of death is right), and multiple suspects with no alibi’s but also no motive.  What more could you ask for in a Christie ‘who-done-it’?

Miss Zukas & the Library Murders – by Jo Dereski. Miss Zukas is a stereotypical spinster librarian whose prim, proper and precise manner is disrupted when she arrives at work and finds police cars outside the library.  It seems there is a dead body in the fiction section.  It’s in the Mo-Ne aisle to be exact.  The weapon is a catalog card drawer rod, straight through the heart. This is a “cozy”. Miss Zukas may be “proper”, but her friends are as zany as they come. PS: The library has a great cat.

The Cruellest Month – by Hazel Holt.  Sheila Malory is the sleuth in this very classic style mystery.  The body of a retired librarian is found underneath collapsed shelves at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. A very heavy tome appears to have hit her on the head. It is considered an accident by the police. The body was found by Sheila’s godson and his description of the scene leaves Malory feeling that murder may have been done. The deceased was not well liked and so possible suspects abound.  It has wonderful interesting bits about the Bodleian. Several literary references are made in the book, enjoyable if you know what they refer to, but it’s not necessary to know them to enjoy the story.

Bury Your Dead – by Louise Penny. Chief Inspector Gamache, top homicide detective of the Sureté du Quebec is in Quebec City, recovering from a physical and emotional trauma, the exact nature of which isn’t immediately known but which is slowly revealed throughout the book.  While he is there, the body of an eccentric searching for the burial site of Champlain, Québec’s founder, turns up in the basement of the Literary and Historical Society Library and Gamache is drawn into the case. He is also bothered by the resolution of a previous case and dispatches his colleague, Insp. Beauvoir, to the quiet town of Three Pines to revisit the case. Tying three plots into a cohesive whole is a daunting task and Penny has done it with absolute perfection.

Other suggestions:

Murder in the Stacks – by Marion Boyd.  Difficult to find, but worth the effort.

The Long Farewell – by Michael Innes.  Actually, lots of Innes’s bodies are in libraries.

Murder in a Library – by Charles Dutton.  Another oldie that’s hard to find.

Here the body isn’t in the library, but The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco is about books, libraries, censorship, and the cost of truth.  Plus it’s a great murder mystery.

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 11:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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