Book Review: The Bodies in the Library, by Marty Wingate

Hi all! Here is (yet another) cozy murder mystery – can’t beat light reading during the stress of an international health crisis. I was thrilled to pick this up, since Marty Wingate created a world that I love called the Birds of a Feather series, but that series is only available as e-books. This was an automatic pre-order for me based on her other books. So without further ado, here is The Bodies in the Library:

From the Publisher:

Hayley Burke has landed a dream job. She is the new curator of Lady Georgiana Fowling’s First Edition library. The library is kept at Middlebank House, a lovely Georgian home in Bath, England. Hayley lives on the premises and works with the finicky Glynis Woolgar, Lady Fowling’s former secretary.

Mrs. Woolgar does not like Hayley’s ideas to modernize The First Edition Society and bring in fresh blood. And she is not even aware of the fact that Hayley does not know the first thing about the Golden Age of Mysteries. Hayley is faking it till she makes it, and one of her plans to breathe new life into the Society is actually taking flight–an Agatha Christie fan fiction writers group is paying dues to meet up at Middlebank House.

But when one of the group is found dead in the venerable stacks of the library, Hayley has to catch the killer to save the Society and her new job.


What I Loved:

  • The SettingWhile Bodies takes place in modern-day Bath, it is Lady Georgiana Fowling’s First Edition Library that captivates. The Library is housed in the late Lady Georgiana’s Georgian house (say that five times fast!), and every detail in the book goes towards making the reader feel right at home. Even Lady Georgiana’s portrait seems to welcome everyone in, and Hayley often looks to her for comfort. Personally, I love any sort of library setting, especially for mysteries, but this one sounds less spooky and more a place you’d want to come home to. ALSO how cool would it be to be rich and collect first edition mystery books and donate it all to people who love them as much as you do?
  • Hayley (caveat): Hayley Burke is the main character and head librarian and the First Edition Library, and I found her (mostly) delightful. Despite not being a mystery reader, she is clearly good at her job, and has a fiery streak when it comes to protecting the legacy of the library. I loved that she wasn’t pretentious or anything about not reading mysteries; they just weren’t her forte. And as soon as she got into them, she dove right into Agatha Christie like it was nobody’s business. I also like that she does make mistakes and owns them, while trying to pursue what she believes is right about the Society and about the mystery.
  • Bunter the cat. The late Lady Georgiana’s cat, Bunter, is one of a long line of Bunters, and he is delightful. I have always believed that cats have a certain intuition about them, and this cat is no exception. What I liked is that Bunter is clearly involved in helping solve the mystery, but the book never pushes that envelope too far and  have him talk or something.

What Didn’t Work for Me:

  • Hayley’s personal life. Hayley, as I mentioned above, is amazing at her job, seems like a great friend to the people around her, and is an engaging character in all ways… except for her family. Her daughter Dinah is 22 and seems like a bit of a deadbeat who, while loving, uses her mother’s guilt to get what she wants; Hayley’s ex seems like a child; and her current boyfriend for most of the book is a self-absorbed “inventor” type that seems like a user as well. It is disheartening to see an otherwise strong female character get put down by the people around her. I just hope we see a furtherance of the character arc that began in this storyline.
  • The large cast of characters. Cozies always have a lot of characters, but it was hard to keep track of all of the women involved in the First Edition Society, along with the fanfiction writing group suspects, and the police officers. I ended up writing some of it out to follow personal relationships and who will actually “matter” in the coming books. However, I can also appreciate that this was probably a play on how Agatha Christie had huge casts of characters in her Miss Marple series (on brand, since I liked that series a lot less than Hercule Poirot).

Bottom Line:

The Bodies in the Library was a good hearted and fun “sort of” cozy mystery set in a library, and is promising to become a really excellent series. It is also a very light pastiche on its namesake, The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie. As such, I would definitely recommend it to readers of both contemporary and classic mysteries, and book lovers as well. Four out of five waves for this light beach read!

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