A businessman collapses in his office, poisoned by a rare substance. His widow has been hiding an affair, and the police inspector sees her smiling behind her fake tears. Miss Marple comes into the case to investigate the involvement of her former maid, and notices that the murdered man had rye grain in his pocket. Several other facets of the case seem to mimic the nursery rhyme about a king in his counting house, the queen eating bread and honey, and the maid in the garden hanging out the clothes. Inspector Neele will need Miss Marple’s help to unravel the clues!
I liked the way this murder mystery followed the nursery rhyme, “Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye, four and twenty blackbirds baked into a pie…” There were so many red herrings and each of them were memorable and interesting! The plot really had me guessing, and I was fascinated by the way Miss Marple figured it all out.
We follow Inspector Neele much more than Miss Marple. In fact Miss Marple is only in three or four short scenes. I wish she had been a more central figure in the story, but I did enjoy reading from the perspective of Inspector Neele.
The characters are interesting and complex. They are all hiding things, and they all have various motivations for what they do and how they act and speak. It’s quite a puzzle to figure them out. A recurring theme in the book is that these are “not pleasant people”. They are mostly greedy and selfish and duplicitous. There are shady business deals, and blackmail, and extramarital affairs, and one or two innocent and sweet people who are the gullible victims of all these lies.
Such a great mystery! But not my favorite. In a weird way, it made me feel sort of uneasy and anxious as I was reading it. I’m not sure why.