Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Rollover Information
About MYSTERY! Schedule Program History Detectives American Mystery Specials Home Search Shop
The Murder at the Vicarage
Production Notes The Actors and their Roles Story Synopsis Who's Who Agatha Christie Links + Bibliography Discussion Miss Marple Home MYSTERY! Home The Murder at the Vicarage
Story Synopsis [imagemap with 8 links]

Story Synopsis

Plot Revealed Below!

Overview
The tranquil village of St. Mary Mead, which nestles picturesquely in the rolling hills of the English countryside, is not quite as peaceful as it might first appear.

Over dinner at the vicarage, the vicar, his glamorous young wife Griselda, the handsome artist Lawrence Redding and Hawes, the nervous curate, discuss how they each would murder the odious Colonel Protheroe. Only Miss Marple has the foresight to warn them not to tempt fate.

The next day, Protheroe is found with a bullet in his head, slumped across the writing desk in the vicar's study.

Inspector Slack duly arrives to find that the case is not as simple as it might appear. At first he refuses to believe that a frail and fluffy old maid can help in any way -- but appearances can be deceptive and eventually he has to bow to Miss Marple's intimate knowledge of village life, her superior razor-sharp mind and her surprising knowledge of love and lust...

Detailed Synopsis
In the quiet village of St Mary Mead the parishioners gather for church on Sunday morning and also look forward to a good gossip afterwards, covering such topics as the whereabouts of Lettice Protheroe and whether she is up to something with the handsome artist, Lawrence Redding. And who exactly is Mrs. Lester -- and was she really tipsy at the jumble sale? The most contentious topic for discussion arises from the service itself -- Mrs. Price-Ridley is aghast that her one pound note has not been counted in the collection announcement and the blustering Colonel Protheroe insists on tackling the affair, to the annoyance of the kindly Rev. Leonard Clement.

Miss Marple listens attentively and without condemnation to the different scandals. She sees her friend Anne Protheroe's unhappiness with her husband, the Colonel, and agrees to have lunch with her the following day. Griselda, the vicar's attractive and highly-spirited young wife, reminds them all that they are expected for tea and scandal at the vicarage on Monday.

The colonel returns home to discover that Lawrence Redding has been painting his teenage daughter Lettice in her bathing costume! Consumed with rage, he telephones Leonard to complain that he shouldn't let Lawrence use the vicarage shed for such sordid purposes. If only he knew what was really going on in there...

Anne, feeling the strain, attempts to be a good hostess to her guests at Old Hall. An elderly Frenchman, Professor Dufosse, and his granddaughter Helene have traveled to England to study the architecture of some of the more important English houses. Strangely, Helene seems to have an obsession with getting into the Colonel's locked study...

That evening Miss Marple has dinner at the vicarage with Lawrence, Hawes, the curate with a very nervous disposition, Griselda, Leonard and Leonard's nephew, the lovesick Dennis. They consume particularly revolting food made by the laconic maid Mary, and discuss what method each of them would use to murder the colonel. Miss Marple solemnly advises them not to tempt fate.

The next day, the Colonel enjoys sending Frank Tarrant, Mary's young man, to prison for poaching.

Miss Marple lunches with Anne, who is clearly being made very miserable by her husband and his foul temper. As they are about to get a lift home with him, a motorbike, traveling at speed, swerves at the group. Anne pulls Miss Marple to safety but unfortunately she catches her ankle. The injury is quite severe.

Miss Marple, frustrated at not being able to walk properly, is cheered up by Griselda bringing the tea and scandal party over to Miss Marple's house. Excusing himself, Leonard goes to see how Lawrence is progressing with his portrait of Griselda. He is shocked to find Lawrence and Anne mid-clinch. As he stumbles away Lawrence pursues him, and Anne makes a hurried exit, still buttoning up her blouse. The attendees at the tea party stare, agog, from Miss Marple's window.

Leonard tells Lawrence that he must leave the village and try to protect Anne's reputation. Lawrence protests that they are too in love to be parted...

That evening, the still blissfully ignorant colonel receives a phone call from Mrs. Lester and hurries to meet her in her room in the Blue Boar. They seem to have a past...

The next day, the colonel makes it known that he will be at the vicarage at 6:15 to go through the church accounts. At the train station he bumps into Griselda and they quarrel. The Colonel takes a train to Melchester and Griselda stays behind to wait for the London train. She then, mysteriously, asks for a ticket to Melchester...

Meanwhile at Old Hall, Helene has broken into the colonel's study and is busy going through his safe. Dufosse stands guard outside. When they have found what they are looking for, Dufosse is consumed with anger and heads out, taking a gun.

Lawrence has kindly set up a chair for Miss Marple in her garden in a spot where she can enjoy the comings and goings along the lane. He then goes to the vicarage to tell Leonard he intends to move away. Anne pops in to talk to Miss Marple about her affair -- but heads off anxiously to the vicarage after receiving a mysterious phone call.

Miss Marple watches her go from the vicarage to the shed and then sees Lawrence join her, knowing that Lawrence intends to tell her it's over. She hears a shot form the woods at 6:30 and then sees Lawrence and Anne part -- Anne heads off with Dufosse and Helene, back to Old Hall.

After a sip of beer in the pub, Lawrence returns to the vicarage at 6:45 exactly -- but then leaves again very quickly, bumping into Leonard who is arriving back from a bogus call out.

Confused by Lawrence's strange manner, Leonard heads in to see the colonel, but finds him dead -- shot through the head.

Inspector Slack arrives to investigate. The evidence seems to point to the colonel being murdered at 6:20 -- a smashed clock and the time on the top of the note he was writing. But Dr Haydock says it could have happened anytime from then to 6:40.

Lawrence Redding hands himself in to the police, claiming that he shot the colonel to free Anne. Anne, hearing what Lawrence has done, hands herself into the police claiming she did it.

Miss Marple starts to help Slack with his investigations as she had a very clear view of the back of the vicarage. Slack begrudgingly accepts information from her, annoyed to have to take notice of what appears to be a frail and fluffy old maid. Miss Marple rather enjoys letting him know that the vicarage clock was kept 15 minutes fast -- and so the fact that it stopped at 6:20 could mean that someone was deliberately trying to frame Anne. It is now accepted that the shot that Miss Marple heard from the woods at 6:30 was probably the shot that killed the colonel.

At the inquest, Mary reveals that she heard a sneeze at 6:20 -- could that have been the murderer waiting? Anne reveals that the motorbike incident might have been an attempt on the Colonel's life. Mrs. Price-Ridley informs Slack that the Colonel sent down Mary's boyfriend. Miss Marple can think of at least nine people who wanted him dead.

Dennis finds Lettice weeping. He tries to console her, but Lettice won't reveal the secret she has with Mrs. Lester.

In the dead of night, Dufosse and Helene try to escape from Old Hall, only to find Slack waiting for them. Dufosse tells the tragic story of how his grandson, Henri, was double-crossed by the colonel during the war. The colonel stole money meant for the French Resistance and left Henri to be captured and killed by the Nazis. Dufosse had meant to kill the Colonel when Helene found the proof in his safe, but the Colonel was already dead by the time Dufosse got to the study. Miss Marple finds it interesting that Dufosse claims to have seen a long barreled gun and a lengthy note.

Leonard finds an earring belonging to Anne in his study, which he shows to Miss Marple. Leonard also shows her an anonymous letter, telling him to 'watch his wife.' This preys on his mind, as he knows Griselda is keeping something from him. Just before Wednesday night evensong, he finds out that she didn't go to London on the day of the murder. Upset, he preaches a powerful sermon about love and truth. It affects many members of his congregation. Mrs. Lester admits that she is Lettice's mother. Hawes looks visibly shaken. Griselda looks guilty.

Miss Marple then decides to clear up a few things -- she confronts Mrs. Price-Ridley about the anonymous note and finds that Griselda was seen with a man in Melchester. And she ticks off Lettice for putting Anne's earring in the study, trying to crudely frame Anne after she had been cleared. Lettice believes Anne was responsible but perhaps she is still sore that Lawrence chose Anne over her? Hawes has had the tire of his autocycle slashed and so Lawrence offers to walk him home. Meanwhile Miss Marple confirms to Slack that Hawes had been removed from his last parish for petty theft. They receive a call that Hawes has tried to commit suicide. As Slack rushes off, Miss Marple suddenly realizes who is really responsible for the murder, and how it all happened.


Production Notes | The Actors and their Roles | Story Synopsis | Who's Who

Miss Marple Home | Agatha Christie | Links + Bibliography | Discussion

Home | About MYSTERY! | American Mystery Specials | Program History
Schedule & Season | MYSTERY! Games | eNewsletter | Book Club
Discussion | Search | Shop | Feedback

WGBH Logo PBS logo

©




Masterpiece is sponsored by: