The Body in the Library

Cover of The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie. Cover of words on shelves by Michael P. Correy.
Cover by Michael P. Correy. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: The Body in the Library

Author: Agatha Christie

Nutshell: Miss Marple’s friend, Mrs. Bantry calls in a panic. There is the body of a dead woman in her library! Neither she nor the Colonel have ever seen the woman before. Will Miss Marple please come and have a look round to see what she thinks of the affair?

The dead girl turns out to be Ruby Keene, a dancer for a nearby hotel, who was mixed up in nothing, and nobody has anything remarkable at all to say about her. Miss Marple must use all her insight to crack this case.

Read-alikes: Dorothy Sayers is very like Christie. Their faintly satirical portrayal of their characters is similar.

Read More »

Ballet Shoes

Cover of Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Cover by Cath Kidston.
Art by Cath Kidston. Click through to read a preview on Amazon!

Title: Ballet Shoes

Author: Noël Streatfeild (What an unfortunate spelling!)

Nutshell: Pauline, Petrova, and Polly are not exactly siblings. They are all orphans who were collected by the very eccentric man they call Great Uncle Matthew (Gum, for short.) In the course of his 1930’s English Gentleman’s habit of exploring the world and bringing home assorted bits of it, he picked up these three girls and sent them home to his niece, Sylvia, who, with the help of Nana, the cook, the maid, and assorted boarders, must somehow fashion a living for the girls. The girls are Sylvia’s delight, but she despairs of finding the money to educate them, now that Gum has gone missing. Then one of the boarders suggests that the girls might be able to go on scholarship to The Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, and in a few years time, earn a bit of money from stage performing.

This unlikely method of earning money is nonetheless met by delight from the girls and reserved willingness from Sylvia and Nana, and the girls are enrolled in Madame Fidolia’s Academy, where they will have lessons not only in acting, singing, and dancing, but also in hard work, doing your best, and finding your dreams.

Read-alikes: When I thought of books similar to this one, I came up with the Chronicles of Narnia, Louisa Alcott’s books, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s books, the Series of Unfortunate Events, the Boxcar Children, the Emerald Atlas and the Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. I think I would collect these books under the genre “Silbing Adventures”, and they tend to read very similarly in character interaction and plot motion, but only the Alcott’s and Burnett’s books read really closely to Ballet Shoes in terms of theme and style.Read More »

Gaudy Night

Cover of Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers.
Cover by Robin Bilardello. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: Gaudy Night

Author: Dorothy Sayers

Nutshell: Harriet Vane returns! Still plagued by the ever charming and mischievous Peter Wimsey, the as-yet-un-fully-moved Harriet returns to her alma mater, Oxford University, for what amounts to a class reunion. She expects nothing more than to see the hallowed past tarnished by the unfortunate present, but someone decides to pen vile messages and leave them around the grounds for incomprehensible reasons. Harriet manages to be the only member of the college above suspicion, and as her day job has exalted her logical faculties in the eyes of her college’s faculty, they appoint her to investigate. What joy. Happy day. Harriet accepts, if only to keep the messages from getting into the gossip channels and damaging the college’s reputation, but this case will run close to her heart — like a knife.

Readalikes: This is so much more like a novel of manners (and social commentary) than a detective novel that I’m claiming Jane Austen as a readalike.

Read More »

Strong Poison

Cover of Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers. Cover by Robin Bildardello.
Cover by Robin Bilardello. Click to read a preview!

Title: Strong Poison

Author: Dorothy Sayers

Nutshell: Lord Peter Wimsey is the extraneous brother of an English Duke in the 1930s. He is quite well off, and spends his time and money solving crimes. The case in his sights is the poisoning of a little-known author. The suspect is the author’s ex-lover (Shocked gasps are appropriate. Lovers simply were not had without social stigma in the ‘30s.), Harriet Vane, who was the only person with opportunity to poison him, had a clear grudge, and also had the misfortune to acquire a large quantity of arsenic before the murderous incident. Enter Lord Wimsey, who, on the premise that such a clear-cut case must have missed crucial information, determines to discover the true culprit and exonerate Miss Vane.

Also he has fallen in love with her.

Driven by love, punctuated by hilarity, Peter Wimsey must discover which is tougher to crack: a despicably airtight murder case, or the heart of the accused murderess?

Read-alikes: Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is not too far removed from this, although more intellectual and less humorous. Agatha Christie knows somewhat more of humor. Georgette Heyer’s books, though neither mysteries nor set in the 1930s, have a similar flavor of ridiculous to their humor, especially in how close both authors run to satirizing their characters. And my recent read Her Royal Spyness has a similar setting, though obviously a more modern tone and content.

Read More »