The murder takes place in Gossington Hall. Marina Gregg and her husband have a reception for friends and some members of the St John ambulance, who have been allowed to use the grounds of the hall for a picnic to collect funds. Mrs Bantry is one of the chosen ones to go into the house, and other guests are Heather Babcock and her husband.
Marina receives Heather with her usual charm, and the latter keeps chattering about the time when she met Marina in Bermuda despite having the flu. Mrs Bantry, who has been watching them, notices that Marina is hardly listening to Heather Babcock, and instead Marina is looking over the other woman’s shoulder with a frozen look of utter horror. This might have forgotten if nothing had happened. But then Mrs Bantry and other ladies have around the house, and when they return to the room where the reception is taking place, she hears that Mrs Babcock has taken ill, and shortly afterwards to everybody’s shock she dies.
The next day Miss Marple hears the news from her maid, and shortly afterwards Mrs Bantry comes to see her. The two ladies talk about Mrs Babcock’s death, and Mrs Bantry describes what she witnessed, including the strange look Marina had when Heather Babcock was talking to her. Mrs Bantry doesn’t know what Marina was looking at, whether it was the painting of madonna and child hanging on the wall or some of the other guests that kept coming.
The inquest that follows Heather’s inquest concludes that Mrs Babcock was poisoned, but it is not clear how she ingested the poison. Chief Inspector Craddock from Scotland Yard is called to lead the investigation. Dermot Craddock is an old acquaintance of Miss Marple’s, and we first met him in “A Murder is Announced”. Craddock talks to Miss Marple, but right now the woman has no clue yet, but she directs her to Mrs Bantry.
Then Craddock goes to Gossington Hall where he talks to Marina’s secretary, Mr Hailey Preston, Dr Gilchrist, and Marina’s husband, Jason Rudd. Dr Gilchrist has the suspicion that Heather was not the intended victim, but Marina Gregg. After the event, Marina had a nervous breakdown, and when the physician tended to her, she said that it was her that they wanted dead, but the following day Marina claimed she didn’t remember. Jason Rudd also thinks that his wife was the potential victim, and he tells the inspector that he brought Marina and Heather Babcock two cocktails, and he knows that Marina’s was left alone on a table for quite a while. Then someone bumped into Heather, consequently making her spill her drink, and Marina simply gave the woman her cocktail, which she drank. So what Heather drank was Marina’s drink, and now Jason is worried that someone wants to murder his wife. Yet, he doesn’t know who. Jason won’t tell Marina because he doesn’t want to worry her, and Marina tends to be prone to hysterics and vulnerability.
Jason also tells Craddock about Marina’s history of unhappiness. Apparently, the actress has always tried to find happiness and love, but her marriages were all failures. Then she wanted to become a mother, so she adopted three children, but that didn’t work. To her delight, she found out that she was pregnant, but that pregnancy didn’t end well as the baby was born with a mental impairment, which caused a year-long depression in the woman.
I know who the killer is, and the web spun to mislead the reader is so skilfully done. I can’t wait for Miss Marple to unravel the whole thing.