The Thirteen Problems 7

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Miss Marple finds herself with a new set of acquaintances as they tell their stories.

Mrs Bantry was trying to find a sixth guest for the dinner party she was throwing, and Sir Henry Clithering suggested she invite the old lady. On this occasion we meet Mrs Bantry and her husband Arthur Bantry, who we also see in the novel “A Body in the Library”, Sir Henry Clithering, Dr Lloyd, and Jane Helier, an actress.

Arthur Bantry tells the story of Mr and Mrs Pilchard. Mrs Pilchard was a difficult, challenging woman who was bedridden, and since she was difficult, it was hard to find a nurse who could put up with the woman’s temper. This time there was Nurse Copling looking after her. Mrs Pilchard was also keen on spiritualism and fortune telling. One day when the nurse and Mr Pilchard were away, a fortune teller Zarida visited her after the nurse wrote to her at Mrs Pilchard’s request. After her visit Mrs Pilchard was really upset as the fortuneteller had told her to be aware of blue flowers, as the blue primrose meant warning; the blue hollyhock danger, and the blue geranium death. In her room the walls were covered in wallpaper that depicted different kinds of flowers. As time went by, Mrs Pilchard became more and more upset as a primrose and hollyhock turned blue, and she knew that she would die. Mr Pilchard did not take her seriously, thinking that she had done the change of colour herself.

Then one morning she was found dead in bed as a blue geranium appeared on the wall. The woman had her smelling salts next to her, and there was a faint smell of gas. There was rumours that the woman had been murdered by her husband, and when they tried to get hold of Zarida, the fortune teller, nobody knew where she had come from.

Miss Marple comes up with the solution to the mystery. It was Nurse Coplin who murdered her employer. She was in love with handsome Mr Pilchard, so dressing up as the fortune teller, she managed to frighten Mrs Pilchard. That night the woman was so afraid that she used her smelling salts, which Coplin had previously changed for cyanide. Miss Marple had noticed that the solution, used by gardeners to kill wasps, was very similar to smelling salts. So when Mrs Pilchard saw the geranium turned blue – as the flower was drawn in litmus paper which in contact with ammonia turned blue – she used her salts, which killed her. Then Coplin changed the contents for the real salts. Her only mistake was the letter which she wrote to Zarida initially which gave her away. If she contacted the fortune teller, when the police later found that there was no Zarida, it means that she was after the deceit. Another clever murder that Miss Marple also unlocks.

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