Year of publication: 1942
I have read this book before, and I have the TV adaptation countless of times, so I know what happens. Yet, it is still a good read, especially as you know who the killers are and it’s interesting to see their reactions.
The action happens when Mrs Bantry is woken up by Mary, her maid, telling her that there is a body in the library. Then Mrs Bantry elbows her husband awake and tells her what the maid has said. Arthur Bantry is a retired colonel, quiet and respectable, and thinks that his wife has misheard or imagined the whole thing. Yet, he gets out of bed and walks downstairs. The service is upset. The maid did find a body in the library. The police is called. The body belongs to a blonde young woman, dressed in fancy clothes, but nobody knows who she is. Neither Arthur nor Dolly know who she is.
Dolly Bantry calls Miss Marple and sends a car for her. The woman finds the situation quite thrilling. They talk about who the woman can be, and they remember that Basil Blake, a man who works in the film industry and who Arthur has already had problems with, has fancy people at his parties, and one of the people that they saw recently was a blonde woman. The police go to talk to Blake, who has a cheeky attitude, but as they question him, the blonde woman who they were talking about turns up. The woman is very angry with Blake as he has left her behind at the party they had been together that night.
The police leave as their only clue was clearly wrong. Then at the police station they check the missing people. One of the missing people, Dinah Lee, will play an important role later. She is a young girl, fifteen, and belongs to the girl scouts. Now, though, there is no link there. Then the police are notified that another missing person has been reported, someone called Ruby Keene, and the description fits the body of the woman found in Mr Bantry’s library.
A relative of Ruby’s come to St Mary Mead and identifies the body. The woman, Josie Turner, tells them that Ruby was working in the Majestic Hotel, covering for her as she had had an accident while swimming, breaking her ankle. Ruby was a dancer, so she covered all the dancing numbers Josie had, while Josie continued being a hostess for card games and other social interactions. Josie is also led to Gossington Hall to see the place where her cousin was found, and she keeps saying that it is an extraordinary thing. As I have read the book before, we know that Josie is one of the killers, and what she finds so extraordinary is that Ruby was found in Gossington Hall while she or maybe her partner in crime placed it somewhere else.
Josie’s account of the night before is that she was playing cards while Ruby was dancing with a guest, George Bartlett. Then she went to her room to change for the next number with the other dancer in the hotel, Raymond Starr. Yet, Ruby didn’t appear again, and when they went to check the room, there was nobody in it.
The police go to the Majestic to interview those who knew Ruby Keene. They learn that the young woman used to hang out with Conway Jefferson and his family. Conway is the man who reported Ruby’s disappearance. We learn that Conway is an invalid man. Years ago he lost his wife, son, and daughter in a plane crash, and that was when he lost his two legs. Now he lives with his daughter-in-law, Adelaide Jefferson, who has a son from a previous marriage, and his son-in-law, Mark Gaskell.
When the police talk to Mr Jefferson, he tells them that he was very fond of Ruby, and his intention was to adopt her. He had already changed his will, so in the event of his death Ruby would inherit fifty thousand pounds. Jefferson states that he doesn’t feel any compunctions about that as he already gave his son and daughter their inheritance in life, so when they died, Addie and Mark got that from their spouses. After the meeting with Jefferson, the inspectors think that the money could be the motive, so they are going to investigate how Addie and Mark’s finances are.
At the same time we know that Mrs Bantry and Miss Marple are going to the Majestic. Mrs Bantry is worried because after this episode, her husband’s reputation has suffered, and she wants Jane to help her find who killed the young woman found in her home.
As I have mentioned before, even though I have read the novel before and I know what is going to happen, I am still enjoying it. Apart from Miss Marple, one of my favourite characters is Mrs Bantry. She is so fun and charming. I really love her.