A Pocket Full of Rye (1953) – Agatha Christie

Title:A Pocket Full of Rye
Author:Agatha Christie
Publisher:True Crime Club
Date published:1953
Star Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye,

Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie,

When the pie was opened the birds began to sing ,

Wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?

The king was in his counting house, counting out his money,

The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey,

The maid was in the garden hanging up the clothes,

When there came a dickey bird and nipped off her nose”

Miss Marple has got to be one of the most interesting characters in crime fiction history. In no way is she ever the main character, has the least amount of dialogue, and usually only swoops in at the end of the novel. However, Miss Marple, the little old lady with the sharp mind and the ability to see through walls, from the tiny village of St. Mary Mead, always finds a way to solve some pretty complicated and intimate cases. In A Pocket Full of Rye she once again manages to make an incredibly well-plotted crime into something so much more, because whimsical nosy old ladies should always participate in solving crimes. Always.

Mr Rex Fortescue residing at Yewtree Lodge with his new wife Adele Fortescue, is found murdered in his office at Consolidated Investment Trust. Upon investigation it turns out that Rex was poisoned by ingesting taxine in his tea, and this poison is found in yew berries, something that Yewtree Lodge has in abundance.

Inspector Neele arrives at the lodge with every intention of pointing his fingers at the most likely suspect – the wife. However several days later Adele Fortescue is also found dead after indulging in a late breakfast. It seems her tea was laced with a little cyanide, and if you are not too familiar with poisons dear reader I will reveal that ‘cyanide’ is pretty potent (read: fatal).

At this point all three of Rex’s children from a previous marriage have returned home to the fold. Percival Fortescue and his wife Jennifer hope very much to inherit the family business, and Percival has kept close to his father for years, working by his side and playing the dutiful son. Elaine Fortescue is for want of a better word dear reader, a nitwit. She’s shallow, useless and totally devoted to her beau Gerald Wright, whom she hopes to marry soon. Finally there is the return of the prodigal son Lance Fortescue and his perfectly lovely wife Pat, who were living in East Africa before they made the decision to return home to Yewtree and attempt to make peace with Rex who’d had a falling out with Lance years prior. The scene is set for suspicions and intrigue, back-stories and family secrets.

Of course Yewtree Lodge being the vast property that it is there will of course be a couple of servants, housekeepers and such that can be added to the list of potential murderers. The grand house is run by Miss Dove, who seems to have secrets of her own, and the parlourmaid Gladys Martin and her own beau Bert Evans seem to be tangled in something less than wholesome. It is through Gladys that our Miss Marple is connected to this mystery as she once employed the maid in her home at Mary. St Mead. On the bottom floor lives Rex’s sister-in-law Miss Ramsbottom, a crotchety old devil with a taste for prophecies of doom, and finally there are the Crumps who take on the roles of butler and cook.

With everyone being questioned and Miss Marple planting herself firmly in the thick of things, the suspects become the least of Inspector Neele’s worries when it becomes known that Rex Fortescue had not only been found dead with rye in his pocket, but there is also the strange story of a pie filled with blackbirds, and the the echoes of a children’s nursery rhyme that might indicate someone else may be next…

A Pocket Full of Rye is perfect. Beautifully crafted with characters that inspire mistrust, and plot twists that keep you guessing this is another Agatha Christie masterpiece.

If you liked this review I have other Agatha Christie’s you may be interested in

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