The Body in the Casket

A cleverly worded summary of The Body in the Casket could easily lead you to think that it was describing an Agatha Christie mystery.

As you can tell from the image of the cover, it’s actually a Katherine Hall Page mystery, not an Agatha Christie. And, as you can surmise from the map, it takes place in Weston, Carlisle, and Concord (all in Massachusetts), not in England. So what’s the Christie connection?

The answer is that The Body in the Casket is a deliberative pastiche of a variety of Christie stories (plus a heavy dose of the game Clue). Most of the reminders are clear but only implicit, though there are occasional explicit references as well, especially one to The Orient Express. The assortment of invited and uninvited guests at a Weston mansion (subbing for a British country estate, but explicitly named as Weston) feel like a familiar bunch. Page has filled the novel with theatrical references, since the host is a former producer/director of Broadway musicals. Has he been mistreating his actors? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Even more relevant to me are the Weston/Carlisle/Cambridge references. The caterer, playing her usual role as amateur detective à la Miss Marple — and playing a role is particularly appropriate in this case, since everything is so theatrical — apparently lives in Carlisle (based on internal clues, although the town is called Aleford here). She and some other characters frequently go to Weston and Cambridge for a variety of reasons. Page perfectly captures the scene in those places, especially at restaurants, but also on the T and at Starbucks. The competition between Christopher’s and Mr. Bartley’s is particularly funny and appropriate.

If this is the sort of book you like, then you’ll like this book. If you want action-packed adventure, then you won’t. As for me, I liked it.


Categories: Books, Dorchester/Boston, Weston