Plot Revealed Below!
The villagers of Chipping Cleghorn become increasingly curious and excited about a message in the personals column of the local paper, announcing a murder that evening at Little Paddocks. Is it a game?
At Little Paddocks, Letitia Blacklock is also trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious advertisement. She certainly did not place it herself, and wonders if one of the 'waifs and strays' that live under her roof is responsible. Dora Bunner, an old school friend of Letitia's who has fallen on hard times, is not a likely prankster and Phillipa Haymes, a young war widow, tends to take life very seriously. Mitzi, a Jewish refugee who has begrudgingly gone into service, seems too paranoid for high jinx. The most likely person is Patrick Simmons, a distant cousin of Letitia's, who is renting a room along with his slightly aloof sister, Julia. But they all plead ignorance and Letitia is left knowing only one thing -- that at 6:15 that evening all the neighbors will arrive, full of curiosity.
The first guest to arrive is Colonel Archie Easterbrook, who spent most of his military career in India and only recently moved to Chipping Cleghorn. He is followed by Sadie Swettenham and her son, Edmund. Archie and Sadie are secretly courting, much to Edmund's distaste. Last to arrive are Liz Hinchcliffe and Amy Murgatroyd, a couple who live at the nearby farm, Boulders.
At 6:30pm, the lights go out and a man's voice shouts, "Stick 'em up," and shines a powerful flashlight around the room. This is rapidly followed by three gunshots and lots of screaming. By the light of a match, the body of a strange young man is seen lying on the floor -- dead. When the lights come on, Miss Blacklock is seen with blood spilling down her blouse and two bullet holes in the wall behind her head. It appears that the young man had come to steal valuables, had taken aim at Miss Blacklock -- and then had mistakenly shot himself...
Meanwhile, Miss Marple has been enjoying some treatments at The Royal Spa Hotel. She reports an incident concerning a check of hers that has been altered and realizes that the Swiss born receptionist, Rudi Scherz, is guilty of the crime. It then transpires that it was Rudi who had been killed at Little Paddocks the evening before. Inspector Craddock arrives at the hotel to begin his investigation and encounters Miss Marple who, much to his irritation, advises him that Rudi, although a petty thief, did not seem the sort of person capable of murder.
Miss Marple decides to visit an old friend who happens to live in Chipping Cleghorn -- Amy Murgatroyd.
When Craddock arrives at Boulders he is both surprised and irritated to find Miss Marple already settled in. He warns her not to interfere but as he talks to her, he begins to realize that she actually has some very shrewd notions about what happened on the night of the murder. She wonders how anyone could witness Rudi brandishing a gun when it was pitch black and whether it was possible that someone from inside the room shot Rudi. She also wonders why anyone would want to kill Miss Blacklock...
Craddock interviews Letitia, who had met Rudi at the hotel some weeks before. He had recognized her from the time she was looking after her sister Charlotte, following an operation in Switzerland. Rudi had asked for money but she had sent him packing. Sadly, Charlotte had died in Switzerland and then Letitia had moved to Chipping Cleghorn. Craddock also discovers that very soon Letitia will become fantastically wealthy. She had previously worked for the billionaire banker, Randall Goedler, who had left his fortune to his wife Belle but, after Belle dies, it will pass to Letitia. Belle's ill health meant that might be very soon. Craddock also finds out that if Letty predeceased Belle, then the fortune would go to Randall's sister's children -- Pip and Emma. Nobody knows where they or their parents are.
Miss Marple pleads for urgency as this means there is a very good reason for someone to kill Letty. Craddock goes to Scotland to talk to Belle and gain more information as to Pip and Emma's whereabouts, while Miss Marple sets out to discover if the inhabitants of Chipping Cleghorn really are who they say they are.
Miss Marple takes tea with Dora and they talk about her school days with the Blacklock sisters. Dora thinks that Patrick must somehow be behind the murder. Letitia arrives and Miss Marple is invited back to Little Paddocks with Amy, where they take a look at the room where the shooting occurred. Miss Marple admires a lamp which incorporates the figure of a shepherd -- only Dora was sure that it had been the shepherdess lamp that had stood there on the day of the murder. Dora also lets slip that the police believe the second door in the room was used by the murderer to move from inside the parlor to behind Rudi Scherz. Miss Marple cleverly quizzes Letitia and discovers that she did not know Julia and Patrick by sight until they arrived recently.
That evening, Dora is given a birthday party at Little Paddocks for which Mitzi cooks her wonderful chocolate cake, Delicious Death. Letty notices Julia touch Patrick in quite an intimate way and begins to wonder if they really are brother and sister. Dora retires early with a migraine.
At Boulders, Amy and Hinch have invited Sadie, Archie and Edmund over for dinner and they begin to re-enact the shooting. They realize that Amy would have been able to see who wasn't in the room as she was behind the door -- and behind the flashlight. Under pressure by Archie, who has slipped back into alcoholism, Amy can't remember who was missing from the room.
The next morning, Dora is found dead in her bedroom -- she had taken some poisoned aspirins that had been left by Miss Blacklock's bedside. Letty is devastated.
Edmund reports to the police that the gun that shot Rudi belonged to Archie. He is annoyed that his mother has continued her affair with Archie and so has decided to spill the beans. Is Archie really Alex Fabricant -- Pip and Emma's father? Archie swears that he isn't.
The villagers gossip about it and Mitzi is told that Amy is the only person who might be able to reveal the person who wasn't in the room. Sadie begs Amy to remember that Archie was in there.
That night Miss Marple starts to piece things together -- she notices that the flex of her lamp is frayed and pours water onto it. All the lights go out.
The next day Amy suddenly remembers who was missing from the room on the murder night. She tries to tell Hinch -- by exclaiming, 'She wasn't there!' but Hinch is busy. As she starts to take the washing in, a mysterious pair of hands choke her with a pair of tights. Miss Marple comes out of the house and is shocked to find that Amy is dead.
Craddock gathers all the suspects at Little Paddocks where he accuses Julia of not being who she says she is. She breaks down and admits that she is really Emma Fabricant but she felt she should keep that a secret when the murder happened. They ask her where her brother Pip is, and Phillipa comes forward and reveals that it is she. Mitzi, affected by the news of Amy's death, suddenly enters the room with a knife and attempts to stab Miss Blacklock, accusing her of murder because Mitzi had told Letty that Amy might have seen who wasn't there... but Craddock steps in and allows Miss Marple to reveal all.
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