It is seven in the morning. The Bantrys wake to find the body of a young woman in their library. She is wearing evening dress and heavy make-up, which is now smeared across her cheeks.
But who is she? How did she get there? And what is the connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are later found in a burned out car in a quarry.
The respectable Bantrys invite Miss Marple to solve the mystery - before tongues start to wag.
(Pictured above are Gwen Watford as Dolly Bantry, and Joan Hickson as Miss Jane Marple).
Lymstock was a town with more than its share of shameful secrets - a town where even a sudden outbreak of anonymous hate-mail caused only a minor stir.
But all of that changed when one of the recipients, Mrs Symmington, committed suicide. Her final note said 'I can't go on'. Only Miss Marple questioned the coroner's verdict of suicide. Was this the work of a poison-pen? Or of a poisoner?
The villagers of Chipping Cleghorn, including Miss Marple, are agog with curiosity over an advertisement in the local gazette which reads: 'A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6:30 p.m.'
A childish practical joke? Or a hoax intended to scare poor Letitia Blacklock? Unable to resist the mysterious invitation, a crowd begins to gather at Little Paddocks at the appointed time when, without warning, the lights go out.
Rex Fortescue, king of a financial empire, was sipping tea in his 'counting house' when he suffered an agonising and sudden death. On later inspection, the pockets of the deceased were found to contain traces of cereals.
Yet, it was the incident in the parlour which confirmed Miss Marple's suspicion that here she was looking at a case of crime by rhyme -
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;
Was not 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 out the clothes,
There came a little blackbird, And snapped off her nose.
'Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,' declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, 'would be doing the world at large a service!'
It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later.
Soon after Gwenda moved into her new home, odd things started to happen. Despite her best efforts to modernise the house, she only succeeded in dredging up its past. Worse, she felt an irrational sense of terror every time she climbed the stairs.
In fear, Gwenda turned to Miss Marple to exorcise her ghosts. Between them, they were to solve a 'perfect' crime committed many years before.
When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she's looking for at Bertram's Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer.
Yet not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day.
In utter disbelief Miss Marple read the letter addressed to her from the recently deceased Mr Rafiel - an acquaintance she had met briefly on her travels.
Recognising in Miss Marple a natural flair for justice, Mr Rafiel had left instructions for her to investigate a crime after his death.
The only problem was, he had failed to tell her who was involved or where and when the crime had been committed. It was most intriguing.
For an instant the two trains ran together, side by side. In that frozen moment, Elspeth witnessed a murder. Helplessly, she stared out of her carriage window as a man remorselessly tightened his grip around a woman's throat. The body crumpled. Then the other train drew away.
But who, apart from Miss Marple, would take her story seriously? After all, there were no suspects, no other witnesses - and no corpse.
As Miss Marple sat basking in the Caribbean sunshine she felt mildly discontented with life. True, the warmth eased her rheumatism, but here in paradise nothing ever happened.
Eventually, her interest was aroused by an old soldier's yarn about a strange coincidence. Infuriatingly, just as he was about to show her an astonishing photograph, the Major's attention wandered. He never did finish the story.
Miss Marple senses danger when she visits a friend living in a Victorian mansion which doubles as a rehabilitation centre for delinquents. Her fears are confirmed when a youth fires a revolver at the administrator, Lewis Serrocold. Neither is injured. But a mysterious visitor, Mr Gulbrandsen, is less fortunate - shot dead simultaneously in another part of the building.
Pure coincidence? Miss Marple thinks not, and vows to discover the real reason for Mr. Gulbrandsen's visit.
What was it that Marina Gregg, the famous film actress, saw just before a murder was committed in her house? What or who caused her expression to change so violently that one observer was reminded of Alfred Lord Tennyson:
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side:
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shallot.
A few minutes later a body lay in Marina's large house - the second time a victim of wilful murder had been discovered there. Miss Marple, whose house in St Mary Mead is close to the scene of the murder, finds a perfect opportunity to indulge in the particular kind of 'unravelling' at which she is adept.