Colonel Mustard appears in full form in Major Palgrave, the jolly old veteran with a thousand tales. For each one, a weathered photograph in his pocket proves its veracity. One of his photos features the biggest marlin ever seen by human eyes, and three men, one of which he knows as a murderer. But, by Jove, there he is, right here in this very room.
At least the resemblance is astonishing.
Major Palgrave never quite reveals the murderer in the room. Instead he drinks a bit too much for his blood pressure and retires early… and expires. The biggest marlin photo never resurfaces.
The first part of the mystery, then, was determining that there was a mystery. Old guys that die on schedule don’t seem odd. So unlike the typical whodunnit, there’s a period when it’s unsure the game is afoot after all. But Miss Marple comes to a notable conclusion: If the good Major was murdered, then he wasn’t the intended target. He was killed because he knew too much. Id est, someone else is on the victim queue. But who? But who?
~ One too many close-ups on Miss Marple’s clicking knitting. My impression was that either she was hypnotizing the suspects with her dexterous handiwork, or she was intimidating them with her stabby needles.
~ Robert Webb stars, who I could not look at and not think of the evil voice bit… and then he does the evil voice.
~ The skeptical (but otherwise professional) police. When confronted with a situation that might be a murder, with a request to exhume the good Major’s body and give him a proper autopsy lest he was poisoned, they explain that there are plenty of incidents around town that involve what are very definitely murders and if it’s all the same to you stuffy Brits we’ll focus our resources on them, thanks. If the local crime rate slows down, though, you can expect our full attention. Police interest stirs promptly after the second murder with all due apologies.*
~ A frank discussion between a priest and a spinster about sex. I paraphrase: Yes, we weren’t supposed to talk about it but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening. Quite a lot of it, in fact. One wonders if this version of Miss Marple had some clandestine flings in her life.
~ The desperate accomplice. Yes, the murderer has a hired minion who needs money. Of course, the true nature of the consignment is only discovered too late by the employee. Too, too late.
~ The crazy scapegoat girl, who blacks out and finds blood on her hands, hallucinates and has other indications of insanity. Everyone’s ready to convict her or commit her by the end.
~ The revolver in the drawer. You know what Chekov says about firearms.
~ The accidental murder, a potential hazard when one woman just adores another woman’s shawl during introductions in an Agatha Christie story, especially if they have similar builds and hair.
When the police finally arrive, a tropical storm sweeps in from the sea. Three dead. Poison, stabbing and a gunshot.
* Now that we’re deep in the cellular age when enough people have smart phones and GPS enough to stay connected nearly everywhere, writers will have to get more clever about other tropes to close the circle. While we’ve seen uncooperative police throughout the mystery genre (even Sherlock Holmes had his difficulties) we are now in an era where non-functional police can render the option useless or only making the situation worse, since the police have the means to convict on minimal circumstances, and have their searches for murder evidence distracted by drug paraphernalia and loose cash. A story in which the circle actually calls the police would progress like Umberto Eco’s Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose) in which the body count and panicked monks drive the abbot to summon the Holy Inquisition. And things go rapidly downhill from there.