Mrs. Elspeth McGillicady, a middle-aged woman tired of Christmas shopping in London, sits down on the train at Paddington Station, flips through the magazine and falls asleep. Half an hour later she wakes up. It’s dark outside the window. The train crashes with a crash. Then, for a while, along the neighboring rails in the same direction as the train in which Mrs. McGillikadi is traveling, another one is moving. Mrs. McGillicady sees a curtain rising sharply in one of the windows of the parallel train. In a brightly lit compartment, a man strangles a woman. Mrs. McGillicady saw the woman: this is a blonde in a fur coat. Like a hypnotized, elderly lady watching the scene of the murder in all the terrible details. The nearby train accelerates and disappears in the dark. Mrs. McGillikadi speaks about the train controller he saw, then he writes a short letter to the head of the station and asks the porter to transfer the letter, adding a shilling to the request. In Milchester, she goes out, she is already waiting for the car, which brings her to St. Mary Meade, on a visit to Miss Jane Marple, her longtime friend.
After hearing the story of Mrs. McGillicady, Miss Marple discusses in detail the details of what she saw and decides to tell the story to the local police sergeant, Frank Cornish. The sergeant, who had occasion to be convinced of the mind and insight of Miss Marple, does not doubt the truthfulness of the story of two elderly ladies. Miss Marple assumes that
Lucy Aylesbarow is a young woman with a sharp mind and diverse abilities, in particular, the ability to copiously and easily deal with any problems of the household. This skill made Lucy very popular, and it was thanks to him that Miss Marple met her once Lucy was invited to lead the economy in the wake of Miss Marple’s illness. Now Lucy takes on the rather strange task of an elderly lady: she will have to work on an au pair at Rutherfordhill, the Krekentorpov mansion, which is not far from the railway, just in the place of the alleged murder; except for this Lucy is to find the corpse. Thanks to her reputation, Lucy immediately gets a job in the Krekentorp family. Soon she manages to find the corpse of a young blonde in the so-called Long Sarai, in a marble sarcophagus, which at the beginning of the century was taken from Naples by the present owner of the house, the father of the family, Mr. Krekentorp the elder. Lucy reports her discovery to Miss Marple, then calls the police. The investigation was entrusted to Inspector Craddock.
A terrible discovery gathers the whole family in a house where only the old father and daughter Emma usually live. The brothers Harold, Gedric, Alfred and Brian Eastleigh, the husband of Edith’s long-dead sister, are coming. None of the men of the family remains indifferent to the charm, beauty and active nature of Lucy. During the work at Krekentorpov she receives from each of them a more or less frank proposal to marry him, and the married Harold offers her patronage. Even a guest in the house of his grandfather Alexander, son of Brian, and his friend James Stoddat-West are delighted with Ayushi, and Alexander transparently hints to her that he would not mind seeing her as her stepmother.
The investigation is trying to establish the identity of the deceased. According to one version, Anna Stravinskaya, a mediocre dancer from the middle arm of the French ballet troupe, toured in England. Craddock’s trip to Paris seems to confirm this version. But there is another. The fact is that shortly before Christmas, Emma Krekentorp receives a letter from a certain Martina, a French girlfriend who died in the war of her brother Edmund. Martina wants to see the family, and also get some money to raise her son and Edmund. Emma, who loved her brother, rejoices the letter, the rest, rather, puzzles. Nevertheless, at the address given to Martina, Emma sends an invitation to visit Rutherfordhill. To this, Martin answers with a telegram about the sudden need to return to Paris. Attempts to discover it lead nowhere. But from Anna Stravinskaya,
On the eve of his departure from the mansion of Krekentorpov, Alexander and his friend find Emma’s letter to Martina near the Long Shed.
Meanwhile, the mutual sympathy between Brian and Lucy, as well as between Dr. Quimper, the family doctor of Krekentorp, and Emma is becoming evident.
After a festive dinner, the whole family of Krekentorps suddenly turns out to be poisoned. Analyzes show that Lucy, who cooked dinner, has nothing to do with food poisoning. It’s arsenic. The nurses are invited to the house to care for the sick. It seems that the danger has passed, but suddenly Alfred dies.
Recuperating Emma is visited by the mother of James Stoddat West, Alexander’s friend. She heard from her son about the letter she found and now came to say that she was Martin, that years after Edmund’s death, whom she loved very much, met her current husband, that she did not want to disturb the memories of others or herself, that she was glad to be friends son with Alexander, who reminds her of Edmund.
Left in London, Harold accepts mailed pills to which Dr. Quimper’s prescription is attached, and dies.
Miss Marple, who once visited Lucy at Rutherfordhill, appears there once again with her friend, Mrs. Elspeth McGillicady. In fulfilling Miss Marple’s plan, Mrs. McGillicady requests permission to go to the toilet, Lucy accompanies her. At this time, all the rest sit down for tea. Miss Marple pretends to be choked with a fishbone, and Dr. Quimper comes to her rescue. He takes the palm of the neck of an elderly lady and bends over her to look at her throat. Appearing in the doorway and not understanding what is happening, seeing only the figure of a man whose hands are lying on the neck of Miss Marple, her friend cries: “It’s him!” The doctor’s position reproduces exactly the posture of the strangler she saw on the train.
After a brief denial, Dr. Quimper confesses to the crime he committed. His wife, Anna Stravinskaya, was an ardent Catholic, and it was not necessary to expect a divorce. And the doctor wanted to marry rich heiress Emma Krekentorp. In a final conversation with Inspector Craddock, Miss Marple, relying on her wealth of experience in dealing with people and, as usual, finding a parallel from the fates of her acquaintances, suggests that Emma Krekentorpe is someone who finds her love rather late, but is happy all the time the remaining life. She also does not doubt that wedding bells will soon ring for Lucy Aylesbeara.