An autopsy reveals that the cause of death was poisoning by taxine , a toxic alkaloid obtained from the yew tree , and that Fortescue ingested it with his breakfast, while a search of his clothing reveals a quantity of rye in his jacket pocket. Son Lancelot and his wife Pat are travelling from Kenya to London, at the invitation of his father, according to Lance; at Paris, he wires that he will be home next day, and police meet him at the airport. The day Lance arrives at Yewtree Lodge, leaving his wife in London, Adele dies of cyanide in her tea, and a few hours later the maid Gladys Martin is found strangled in the yard, with a clothes pin put on her nose. Inspector Neele is working full-time with the aid of Sergeant Hay on these murders, interviewing all at the office and in the home.
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Edit When upper middle class businessman Rex Fortescue dies while having tea, the police are shocked. The diagnosis is death by taxine - a poison found as a mixture of cardiotoxic diterpenes in the leaves, but not the berries darils , of the European yew tree. His wife was the main suspect in the murder, until she also was murdered, after drinking tea laced with cyanide.
Going on the only clue, a pocket full of rye found on the victim, Miss Marple begins investigating. Marple realizes the murders are arranged according to the pattern of a childhood nursery rhyme, Sing a Song of Sixpence. The next to be murdered is a maid named Gladys with whom Miss Marple was acquainted.
She knew Gladys to be romantic and gullible. The younger Fortescue son, Lancelot , suddenly arrives from Kenya with his new wife. The older son, Percival, admits that his father was senile and ruining the business. The mine is in Kenya. He had found out that the Blackbird Mine was valuable and wanted to inherit it, and so he met and romanced his scapegoat Gladys.
Then, he killed Gladys so that she would not turn him in, and killed his stepmother so that the inheritance went to the children.
Characters Miss Marple : She trained Gladys in the duties of service in a home or at a restaurant, and feels responsible when she reads of the murders where Gladys works. Miss Griffith : Head typist at the offices of Rex Fortescue. She calls his doctor. Miss Irene Grosvenor : Competent, beautiful blonde secretary in the offices of Rex Fortescue, his personal secretary. Miss Somers : Newest secretary in the office of Rex Fortescue, never able to know when water is boiling for tea.
He is quick-thinking, making sure of the cause of death rapidly, so it is known to be murder. Sergeant Hay : Assists Inspector Neele. He finds the discarded jar of marmalade in the yard. Rex Fortescue : Wealthy, unscrupulous businessman in London who dies at his office. He is over 60 years old, and suspected by his sons of a serious disease which impairs his functions in the business, Consolidated Investments. Percival Fortescue : Eldest son of Rex, working with him in the business.
He is more conservative in his investments than his father is. He is called either Percy or Val and is about 30 years old. He seems to get what he wants, and has the most to gain from the deaths of his father and stepmother, but could not have killed the latter. Jennifer Fortescue : Wife of Percival for the last three years. They met when she nursed him back to health from pneumonia. She is bored in her life as a wife, without the focus of professional nursing.
She was Ruby MacKenzie before she married. Lancelot Fortescue : Second son of Rex, nickname Lance. The two argued eleven years earlier, causing a breach, but he retains a role in Consolidated Investments as junior partner. He lives in Kenya, coming home apparently to reconcile with his father because he is very happy with Pat, and wants to settle down.
He is handsome, attractive, clever and completely unscrupulous. Pat Fortescue : Recently married wife of Lance. They met in Kenya, where she went to start life afresh after losing two husbands, first one to the war, second one to suicide Lord Frederick Anstice.
She loves Lance and he loves her. Miss Marple advises her to return to her childhood home, if troubles should find her in her life again. Elaine Fortescue : Daughter of Rex, and youngest child, in her twenties. She is in love and wants to marry, but her father forbids the marriage. Once he dies, she tells her brother she will marry in a month, and start a school with her husband. Gerald Wright : A schoolmaster who Elaine loves. He comes to the area when Elaine calls him after her father dies.
She spends time with visiting missionaries, and is over 70 years old. Adele Fortescue : Second wife of Rex, about thirty years younger than he is, about the age of his sons. They have been married two years. She is a beautiful woman who loves expensive things, described by Mary Dove as "a sexy piece".
He is the sole heir in her will. Mary Dove : Housekeeper for Yewtree Lodge. She is competent and calm in the face of murder. Mr Crump : Serves as butler, not very well, but he is a package deal with Mrs Crump.
Gladys Martin : Parlour maid at Yewtree Lodge, the family mansion of the Fortescue family, for about two months. He is a pose by Lance Fortescue. Ellen Curtis : Housemaid at Yewtree Lodge for several years. Rex left him there to die. Rex still owns the land, and claimed that it was worthless, as to gold. She is living in Pinewood private sanatorium.
She no longer speaks with her daughter as she only argues with her daughter. Son was killed early in the Second World War. Crime is a convention, pursuit an intellectual exercise, and it is as if the murderer of the odious financier did but poison in jest. The characters are lightly and deftly sketched and an antiseptic breeze of humour prevails. It is a pleasure to read an author so nicely conscious of the limitations of what she is attempting.
In the present case it may be felt that the hidden mechanism of the plot is ingenious at the expense of probability, but the tale is told with such confidence that like murder itself, in this pastoral atmosphere it does not matter very much. But how well she nearly always writes, the dear decadent old death-trafficker; they ought to make her a Dame or a D. Christie usually prefers to keep most of her characters at least potentially sympathetic as well as potential murderers, but here they are only the latter.
And the rhyme is an irrelevancy. Still, a good, sour read. Despite remaining faithful to the novel, apart from giving the title as "A Pocketful of Rye", the characters of Mrs MacKenzie, Gerald Wright and Elaine Fortescue did not make an appearance.
In the end the murderer commits suicide while there is no such thing in the novel. The novel was adapted for the fourth series of the British television series Marple broadcast on ITV on September 6, , starring Julia McKenzie as the title character.
Pocketfull of Rye, Chadron
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Sing a Song of Sixpence
A Pocket Full of Rye