Hello crime readers and food lovers. Today we are tucking into a delicious Chicken Ruby as we read The Body in The Library. The Body in the Library didn’t mention much food, so I improvised. Having said that, I am actually enjoying the improvisations as they are making me seek out recipes I may never have cooked otherwise! This time, in honour of poor Ruby Keene who is one of the murder victims, I decided to cook Dishoom’s Chicken Ruby.
The name Chicken Ruby is a nod to cockney rhyming slang (Ruby Murray = Curry). Ruby Murray was a very popular singer in the 1950’s. The Body in The Library was published in 1942, so Ruby Murray would not have described a curry then. However, curry has been known in Britain since the 17th century. Wikipedia also tells me there was a surge in the popularity of curry in the 1940s so it is quite possible that Miss Marple and the Bantry’s may well have sat down to a “ruby murray”. Not that they would have ever called it that, even if the term had existed because this book is not only about murder it is also very much about class differences.
The Chicken Ruby was delicious. It was a mild curry but packed with flavour! I make quite a few curries and this came closest to tasting like a restaurant curry that I have ever eaten! Chicken Ruby is also the first recipe I cooked from the Dishoom Cookbook. This always puts me in a dilemma – do I make it again because it was so good? Or do I try other recipes from the book hoping that they too will be delicious? It’s a nice dilemma to have. What is not a nice dilemma is finding a dead body in your library, so lets find out how the Bantry’s deal with it.
Class in The Body In The Library
Actually, before we get to the plot, I will preface my discussion of the novel by saying that there is a tone in this book that I did not enjoy. There is an almost universal lack of care for Ruby Keene. Dolly Bantry is almost giddy with excitement about having a murder in her house. There is a mass of victim-blaming and disparaging remarks being made about Ruby being “cheap” “tawdry”, and “not a lady”. Another example, this time from the POV of Superintendent Harper:
“Ruby Keene. so he admitted privately, might have asked for what was coming to her, but Pamela Reeves was quite another story. A nice kid if ever he saw one. He’d not rest until he’d hunted down the man or woman who’d killed her.”
The lack of compassion shown to Ruby really rankled with me and spoilt my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
The Body In The Library -The Plot
We start with a series of discussions that reminded me of the AA Milne poem The King’s Breakfast:
“The King asked the Queen and the Queen asked the dairy maid…”
Only this time it is the maid waking Dolly Bantry and then Dolly waking Colonel Bantry, not to ask for some butter for the royal slice of bread, but to exclaim that “There’s a body in the library”. And indeed the dead body of a young woman with dyed blonde hair, lots of makeup, and a spangled satin dress is lying in the library. Whilst Colonel Bantry summons the police. Dolly sends a car to fetch her old friend Miss Marple. Because she’s “very good at murders.”.
Ruby Keene, a young dancer from a nearby hotel is reported missing. The character of Ruby made me think of the Copacabana song
“Her name as Lola, she was a showgirl
With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there
She would merengue and do the cha-cha
Then another girl is reported missing. Pamela Reeves does not return home after a Girl Guides rally
Could the two disappearances be connected?
And just who is the body in the library?
- Early on, Dolly Bantry says ” All these girls with their make up and their hair and their nails look so alike” which reminded me of Poirot’s quote in Evil Under The Sun about all dead bodies looking the same. Keep this in mind as you read!
- A louche young man called Basil Blake who has been known to keep company with a platinum blonde woman and who is also known to run fast and loose
- Some incongruously bitten fingernails
- A wealthy invalid who had a little crush on Ruby. Might his family have done away with Ruby in order to ensure they inherit his money?
- George Bartlett, Ruby’s last dance partner on the evening she went missing. Might he have wanted to take things a bit further and events went horribly wrong?
- George’s car going missing
- A burnt-out car found in a quarry with traces of a body in it
Luckily we have Miss Marple on hand to figure out what actually happened to our two young victims!
The Body In The Library – The Covers
Not too many surprises here – lots of bodies, lots of libraries. There seems to be a fondness for foreshortening the body or showing only the feet of the body. I am surprised that one of them chose to show a policeman and not Miss Marple!
Here is a close-up of some of the detail from the Tom Adams cover which is the one I own. There are two little flies crawling over the foot of the dead girl.
In Tom Adams Uncovered, John Curran says:
Once again the image of a fly is put to effective use to indicate death and decay. The suggestion of luxury in the rug, counteracted by the cheap beaded dress and the gaudily painted toenails, perfectly captures the juxtaposition of the ostentatious young body in the library of staid Colonel Bantry.
The Recipe – Dishoom’s Chicken Ruby
At the trisk of repeating myself, this was amazing! I marinated the chicken in yoghurt and spices then I grilled it. I then added the grilled chicken to a tomato-sauce laced with spices. At the end, I added a good dollop of cream. The recipe calls for cubes of chicken, however, I realised a little too late that what I had taken out of the freezer were chicken cutlets. I didn’t really mind as cooking meat on the bone usually only improves the flavour!
Here is my chicken just after I added the cream
I wish I’d made more of this!
“Downstairs in the lounge, by the third pillar from the left, there sits an old lady with a sweet, placid spinsterish face, and a mind that has plumbed the depths of human iniquity and taken it as all in the day’s work. Her name’s Miss Marple.”
Agatha Christie – The Body In The Library
Links to The Christieverse
- Dolly Bantry tells Miss Marple that she is very good at murder, referring to her past cases.
- In a little bit of name-dropping a young boy, Peter Carmody who is a fan of detective novels says “I read them all and I’ve got autographs from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie and Dickson Carr and H.C. Bailey”.
- An Ariadne Oliver novel, called The Body In The Library, is mentioned in Cards on The Table.
Other Food & Drinks Mentioned in The Body In The Library
- Bacon for breakfast
- Expensive Wines
Other Christie News
Agatha Chrstie’s birthday was this past week. She was born 15 September 1890.
My mum and I went to see A Haunting in Venice and we loved it!
October’s book is a big one! Five Little Pigs is a novel much loved by Christie enthusiasts. I can’t wait!
#Body #Library #Chicken #Ruby