Miss Marple doesn’t appear in the book until the tenth chapter!!! But she is finally in the village.
After Mrs Symmington’s death, the coroner concludes that the woman committed suicide. This is not the end of the problems in the village. The anonymous letters continue hitting the villagers, and the only person who apparently hasn’t got one is Elsie Holland, the governess, which Jerry finds strange. Then after a few days of staying with Jerry and Joanna, Megan suddenly decides to go home, which the siblings find strange. The fact that she decided to leave after a visit from Miss Griffith, the doctor’s sister, makes Jerry wonder if the woman was the reason why Megan has left. When Jerry runs into Miss Griffith, the woman admits that she hinted that Megan should go back home. However, the reason why she did it is different to what Jerry thought. Miss Griffith had no problem with Megan staying with him and Joanna, but with her staying away from home. Apparently, people’s tongues were already wagging as Elsie Holland was now in the house alone with Mr Symmington, and there were already rumours that Elsie might be planning to become the second Mrs Symmington. So that is the reason why Miss Griffith was so concerned about Megan not living at home. The woman doesn’t think that there is an truth in it, but as Jerry has heard countless times already, there is no smoke without fire. Maybe there is something there after all.
Then there is another death. Agnes, the maid working for the Symmingtons, phones Partridge, who works for Joanna and Jerry. Partridge took her under her wing when the young woman started as a maid for Miss Barton, so she is a woman Agnes feels she can trust. Partridge is a bit miffed because she doesn’t think that it is proper to receive calls. Yet, she asks Joanna if she can have Agnes over at teatime, and naturally, Joanna gives her permission. Then Agnes doesn’t turn up, and when Partridge tells Joanna and Jerry, the latter grows concerned. For some reason he has the hunch that Agnes not turning up is important. So he calls the Symmingtons and Elsie gets the call, and she tells him that Agnes hasn’t returned yet. However, Jerry can’t explain his worries and let it go.
The following morning Jerry is woken by a call. It is Megan, who is very upset, as she discovered the body of Agnes in a cupboard under the stairs. Jerry rushes there, and he learns that Agnes never left the house as she was still in her cap and uniform. The killer hit her in the head and then stabbed something similar to a skewer through her neck.
The police who were already investigating the anonymous letters come. Jerry finds himself involved in the case and thinking about the possibilities. We learn that the day Mrs Symmington killed herself, Agnes was supposed to be out of the house in her afternoon off. However, she had a row with her boyfriend and returned to the house. So Jerry and the police think that Agnes must have seen someone leaving the letter which people believe pushed her to commit suicide. People say that Agnes was not a very bright girl, so she must have been unsure about what she saw, and that is why she must have wanted to talk to Partridge.
The police think that Agnes’s killer is the same person who writes the letters. Inspector Graves, who is an expert in this kind of offences, thinks that the person who writes those letters is a middle-aged woman, and she is likely to be a woman of means. They have found the typewriter which has been used to type the addresses on the envelopes, and it is one which Mr Symmington donated to the Women’s Institute, so this means anybody could have access to it. Then Jerry finds in his bookcase a book from which some pages had been ripped off, and he guesses correctly that this is the book that has been used to cut out the letters for the anonymous missives, and he tells the police. Some of the women that Jerry and the police have listed as possible suspects are Miss Ginch, Mr Symmington, former secretary, Miss Barton, Jerry’s landlady, and even Mr Pye, the effeminate neighbour. I think that the police and Jerry are following a false scent, and the culprit is none of them.
Then the vicar’s wife, Mrs Dane Calthrop, is outraged by the poisonous letters and what consequences they are bringing about. She comes to Jerry, telling him that something must be done, and she is going to call a professional, which Jerry takes for someone from Scotland Yard. Yet, when he and Joanna go to visit the vicarage, there is a guest, who is none other than Miss Marple. They start talking about the letters and Agnes’s murder, and even though Miss Marple has just arrived, she seems to know about the goings-on in the village. One of the things that she finds quite curious is the fact that Elsie has never received any poisonous letters, especially as the people who are targeted are women whose attractiveness makes it easy for the person who writes the letters to invent a rumour. I think I know who the killer is, and so far the police and Jerry are far from the right trail.