Plot Revealed Below!
Mrs. McGillicuddy is woken from a very pleasant dream by a train suddenly pulling parallel to hers. As they draw level, a blind flies up and she finds herself staring straight into the eyes of a woman being throttled by a man, who is silhouetted against the window. As the woman's life ebbs away, the train speeds up, leaving Mrs. McGillicuddy staring into the darkness and wondering if she is having delusions.
She repeats her story to incredulous officials, but finds that it is only her old friend Miss Marple who really takes her seriously. They scan the papers the next day to see if a body has been found and when there is no trace of it, Miss Marple decides to take matters into her own hands.
After acquiring the relevant information from the railway police, the two elderly ladies retrace the murderer's footsteps. Miss Marple cleverly deduces that the body must have been thrown from the train and, adding up the facts, realizes that it most probably landed in the grounds of a house called Rutherford Hall.
As Mrs. McGillicuddy is about to fly to Ceylon, Miss Marple acknowledges that she will need some help to find the body and perhaps a young person to do the legwork. It doesn't take her long to realize that the glamorous Lucy Eyelesbarrow has all the credentials. She is young, intelligent, feisty and in demand as a housekeeper - the perfect job with which to gain access to Rutherford Hall. Miss Marple visits Lucy at Noel Coward's house to propose her scheme. Lucy jumps at the exciting prospect of looking for a body.
The size and the state of dilapidation of Rutherford Hall daunt even Lucy. She is met by Emma Crackenthorpe, who lives in the house with her elderly father, Luther. As Lucy waits in the massive main hall, Dr. Quimper, the friendly family doctor, introduces himself and reveals the fortunes of the Crackenthorpe family. Luther's father, Marcus, built up a confectionery empire, amassing great wealth. But Luther refused to follow in his father's footsteps and as punishment, Marcus left the fortune to Luther's male children and grandchildren. On Luther's death, the house and estate will go to the eldest son and the trust fund will be divided among the others.
Cantankerous Luther immediately takes a shine to Lucy and she is able to find out a little more about the Crackenthorpes. Since losing his wife, Agnes, Luther has become removed from his family. Alfred is now the heir to the estate as his elder brother, Edmund, was killed in the war. Alfred is a drinker and gambler and has recently been dumped by his long-term girlfriend. Emma looks after Luther but stands to inherit nothing. The next brother, Harold, works in the city and is married to a dreadful snob, Lady Alice. Luther's favorite son, Cedric, is a free spirit and an artist, who lives in Ibiza. Another daughter, Edie, died during childbirth: her husband, Bryan Eastley, always visits during the school holidays with their son, Alexander, who is also entitled to a share of the fund.
Bryan is a rather good-looking American to whom Lucy is immediately attracted. They strike up a friendship and she learns the interesting fact that the family was gathered at Rutherford Hall on 4th December, the anniversary of Agnes' death and also, the day of the murder. While playing hide and seek with Alexander and his school chum, James Stoddard-West, she steals the opportunity to search the railway embankment, where she finds a powder compact and part of a fox stole. She reports the information back to Miss Marple, who suggests that the body has been moved and hidden in the grounds. This implicates somebody familiar with Rutherford Hall.
Meanwhile, Miss Marple has taken lodgings with an old friend of hers who lives close to Rutherford Hall. Tom Campbell is a rather unlikely detective with the local police force. Miss Marple decides to conceal her motivation for the visit until she has more evidence.
Lucy has an idea where the body might have been moved to and, that night, armed with a flashlight, she sets out to look. She heads to the family mausoleum but is disappointed that the body is not in the empty sarcophagus. Then she sees something curious on one of the shelves... as she moves to look, an arm falls out from behind a curtain of ivy and she sees the bulging eyes of a dead woman.
Detective Inspector Campbell asks all the family to return to Rutherford Hall, which they reluctantly do. Lucy's task is complete but she decides to stay on as housekeeper and help Miss Marple and Campbell solve the mystery. She is warned to be careful as she could be under the same roof as a murderer.
First they need to establish who the body is. None of the family recognizes her. There is a chance she might be foreign and Lucy picks up on the way that Emma assumes that foreign means French.
Miss Marple and Campbell design a chance meeting with Dr. Quimper, who tells them that he has recently asked Emma to marry him. He also reveals that Edmund -- the eldest brother who was killed in the war -- had been married to a French woman called Martine. Miss Marple can see he is covering something up when he tells them that the family does not know where Martine is.
With a prompt from Miss Marple, Campbell interviews Emma again and discovers that the family recently received a letter from Martine, stating that she would visit Rutherford Hall and that she needed money to give her son a better life -- her son with Edmund.
Miss Marple quickly realizes that this son would not only have a share of the trust fund but he would also be the heir to Rutherford Hall. Did one of the family kill Martine to stop this coming to light? It all seems to be fitting together.
At Rutherford Hall, James and Alexander find a receipt in the grounds with the name 'Mrs. M. Crackenthorpe' on it. It seems that the body must be Martine's. Lucy overhears Emma and Cedric arguing and discovers that they had not been telling the truth about their whereabouts on December 4th. She is devastated to hear that Bryan was also lying and that he arrived by train on the day of the murder! She now sees Bryan in a new light and begins to fear that he might be the murderer.
After studying the pathologist's report, Miss Marple works out that the corpse had dancer's feet and makes some enquiries into travelling ballet troops. She discovers that a dancer called Anna Stravinska went missing around the time of the murder, and after a visit to Madame Joliet's ballet company, they begin to think that Martine and Anna are probably the same person.
That evening the whole family becomes ill after eating a curry prepared by Lucy. Dr. Quimper attends the family and confides in Campbell that he thinks the food may have been deliberately poisoned. Lucy recalls that all the brothers visited the kitchen while she was preparing the curry. Bryan also came in and then left before dinner. They all had ample opportunity to poison it.
Just as the family begins to get better, Alfred has a sudden relapse and dies. Bryan returns to discover that Alfred is dead -- and by this time, Lucy is certain that Bryan is the murderer. She confronts him and discovers that he had stayed in touch with Martine after she broke contact with the family and he reveals her dark secret behind not wanting to stay in touch with the Crackenthorpes. But he is still concealing something...
Armed with this information, Miss Marple takes an educated guess and rings up James Stoddard-West's mother. As she had suspected, Lady Stoddard West is Martine. Bryan had promised her that he would never reveal her identity to the Crackenthorpes. Martine visits Rutherford Hall to prove that she is not dead. But if Martine is alive then whose body was found and what could be the motive for murder?
Miss Marple starts to hatch a plan to ensnare the murderer: Lucy invites the family to London, luring Emma into going so she can have a night out with Dr. Quimper. On board the train to London, Miss Marple checks her watch and then bites into a fish paste sandwich. She starts to choke on a fishbone and Dr Quimper comes to her rescue. Another train swerves and runs parallel. Mrs. McGillicuddy is shocked to see the same tableau as before - a frightened woman's face with a man's hands around her neck. This time however, his identity is revealed and Miss Marple explains the circumstances surrounding the events.
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