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Death by Drowning is a short story by Agatha Christie which was first published in the UK Nash's Pall Mall Magazine in November 1931. It is the thirteenth short story of the Tuesday Night Club story arc.

In 1932, the story was gathered and published as the last short story in the collection The Thirteen Problems. It is preceded by The Affair at the Bungalow.


It is some time after the dinner party hosted by Colonel Arthur Bantry and his wife where the previous six mysteries were presented. Sir Henry Clithering is a guest of the Bantrys again. Miss Marple approaches him about the drowning of a girl in the village. She knows who killed her and doesn't want the wrong man hanged. But, as is frequently the case, Miss Marple only "knows". She has no facts.

Plot summary[]

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Some time has passed since the six people met at the Bantry’s and Sir Henry Clithering is once again a guest there when news reaches the house early one morning that a local girl called Rose Emmott has been found drowned in the river near to the mill. Local gossip was that she was pregnant by a young man called Rex Sandford who is an architect from London and the local feeling now is that she killed herself, unable to face her father with the truth.

Later in the morning, Sir Henry receives a visit from an upset Miss Marple who tells Sir Henry that she knows Rose was murdered but she doesn’t want the wrong man to be hanged for the crime. She tells him that while she believes she knows who the murderer is, she has no proof whatsoever. She asks him to get himself involved in the investigation just to see if the person she suspects was involved or not. She writes the name of the suspect on a piece of paper and gives it to Sir Henry, who reads it and sets out to investigate.

Sir Henry meets Colonel Melchett, the Chief Constable, and Inspector Inspector Drewitt who is investigating the case. By now the police know that the girl did not commit suicide as bruises have been found on her upper arm where she was grabbed before being thrown in the river and a small boy walking in the woods nearby on the evening before both heard her cry and found her body. Sir Henry joins the two policemen as they interview witnesses. They meet Rose’s father who runs the village pub. He definitely thinks Sandford is the murderer. They call on the architect who confesses that he is the father of the unborn child and that he wrote a note to Rose, suggesting a meeting at the river when she insisted on speaking with him. But he didn't want to meet her and missed the appointment and instead took a walk through the woods. Unfortunately he had no witnesses. He is told that he is the prime suspect in the case and not to leave his house.

To wrap matters up, the three men visit the cottage of a widow, Mrs Bartlett, who has a young lodger called Joe Ellis staying with her. This young man was besotted with Rose and he states that he would have married Rose and brought up the baby as his own. At the time of the murder, he was putting up some shelves in Mrs Bartlett’s kitchen and she can provide his alibi.

At Sir Henry’s insistence, they interview the small boy who heard the cry from Rose before she entered the water. He saw Sandford in the woods and thinks he also heard Joe Ellis whistling. He always whistled the same tune. He definitely saw two men with what seemed to be a wheelbarrow in the gathering dusk.

Sir Henry, is unable to clear Sandford. Indeed, the evidence seems all the more compelling. He visits Miss Marple to report what he has learnt. But Miss Marple tells him that Mrs Bartlett and Joe Ellis' story cannot be true. The death took place on a Friday night. Mrs Barlett takes in washing as extra income and Friday is the day she takes the washing back to her customers, loaded in an old pram. Sir Henry sees the light. He goes back to Mrs Bartlett’s to challenge Joe. He confesses to being in the woods but denies hurting Rose. He then confronts Mrs Bartlett to the effect that she too was in the woods near the river. The "wheelbarrow" that was seen was the pram with the washing and it was Mrs Bartlett who threw Rose in the water, as she herself was in love with Joe. Not wanting to see the young man hanged, she confesses but is puzzled as to how Sir Henry knew. He remembers the note Miss Marple gave him on which she clearly names Mrs Bartlett as the murderer.



Research notes[]

Film, TV, or theatrical versions[]

Publication history[]

  • 1931: Nash's Pall Mall Magazine, issue 462 November 1931 with illustrations by J.A. May
  • 1932: The Thirteen Problems/The Tuesday Club Murders
    • 1932: Collins Crime Club (London), June 1932, Hardcover, 256 pp
    • 1933: Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1933, Hardcover, 253 pp
    • 1943: Dell Books (New York), Paperback, (Dell number 8)
    • 1953: Penguin Books, Paperback, (Penguin number 929), 224 pp (under slightly revised title of Miss Marple and the Thirteen Problems)
    • 1958: Avon Books (New York), Paperback (Avon number T245)
    • 1961: Pan Books, Paperback (Great Pan G472), 186 pp
    • 1963: Dell Books (New York), Paperback, 192 pp
    • 1965: Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 192 pp
    • 1968: Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 207 pp ISBN 0-85456-475-6
    • 1972: Greenway edition of collected works (William Collins), Hardcover, 222 pp
    • 1973: Greenway edition of collected works (Dodd Mead), Hardcover, 222 pp
    • 2005: Marple Facsimile edition (Facsimile of 1932 UK first edition), September 12, 2005, Hardcover, ISBN 0-00-720843-X