The Blue Geranium is a short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in issue 272 (December 1929) of The Story-Teller magazine in the UK. In the U.S., the story was first published in Pictorial Review in January 1930. It is the seventh short story of the Tuesday Night Club story arc. There had been a lull of eighteen months between this story and the sixth one.
In 1932, the story was gathered and published as part of the short story collection The Thirteen Problems.
Synopsis[edit | edit source]
A year after the first six meetings, Colonel Arthur Bantry and his wife host a dinner for four others, including Miss Marple and Sir Henry Clithering from the previous "Tuesday Night Club". After dinner the hosts and guests take turns to share mysteries.
The first is narrated by the host, Arthur Bantry and concerns a invalid woman who died after a clairvoyent warns her to beware of blue geraniums.
Plot summary[edit | edit source]
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
A year has passed and Sir Henry Clithering is once again in St. Mary Mead staying as a guest of Colonel Arthur Bantry and his wife, Dolly. Asked for suggestions as to a sixth person for dinner, he names Miss Marple and tells an incredulous Dolly of her success at solving last year’s mysteries. Dolly wonders if the old lady could solve a ghost mystery that Arthur has...
Subsequently, Miss Marple is at the Bantrys' together with Sir Henry, an actress called Jane Helier and Dr. Lloyd. Arthur Bantry tells of a friend of his called George Pritchard whose late wife was a difficult and cantankerous semi-invalid and who had a succession of nurses looking after her. They changed regularly unable to cope with their patient with one exception called Nurse Copling who somehow managed the tantrums and complaints better than others of her calling.
Mrs Pritchard had a predilection for fortunetellers and one day one who called herself Zarida came to the house when both George and Nurse Copling were out of the house on their separate business. Arriving back home, Mrs Pritchard told George that Zarida had declared the house to be “evil” and to avoid blue flowers. Two days later a letter arrives from the fortuneteller that says “Beware of the Full Moon. The Blue Primrose means warning; the Blue Hollyhock means danger; the Blue Geranium means death.” Four days later, one of the primroses in the pattern of the wallpaper in Mrs Pritchard’s room changed colour to blue in the middle of the night when there had been a full moon. A month went by with Mrs Pritchard counting down the days to the next full moon. Sure enough the same thing happened with a Hollyhock on the wallpaper changing colour, even though the door was locked.
Another month passed with Nurse Copling and Pritchard growing increasingly nervous while Mrs Pritchard seems resigned. The morning after the next full moon, Mrs Pritchard was found dead in her bed, her smelling salts beside her, a faint smell of gas in the room and a geranium on the wallpaper turned blue. There was gossip following the death and an exhumation but still no clear result. Moreover, Zarida had disappeared and no one could properly trace how Mrs Pritchard came to hear of her.
Once again Miss Marple has the solution. Having once seen a gardener mixing cyanide of potassium with water to kill wasps, she was struck how much the solution looked like smelling salts. If such a solution was substituted for the bottle Mrs Pritchard always kept, the cyanide would kill her but no trace would soon remain. The gas covered the smell of almonds that would remain for only a short time. The flowers on the wall were red litmus paper which the ammonia in the true smelling salts turned blue as an alkali. All this was carried out by Nurse Copling who was Zarida in disguise in the forlorn hope of marrying Mr Pritchard after his wife had died. Sir Henry confirms that Nurse Copling was recently arrested for a similar murder.
Characters[edit | edit source]
- Jane Marple
- Henry Clithering
- Arthur Bantry
- Dolly Bantry
- Jane Helier
- Dr. Lloyd
- Mary Pritchard
- George Pritchard
- Nurse Copling
- Nurse Carstairs
- Jean Instow
Locations[edit | edit source]
Research notes[edit | edit source]
Film, TV, or theatrical versions[edit | edit source]
Agatha Christie's Marple (ITV series)[edit | edit source]
This short story was adapted as a feature length TV film for the fifth series of Agatha Christie's Marple, starring Julia McKenzie. The adaptation was considerably embellished from the short story, but still keeps to the core storyline.
Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple[edit | edit source]
NHK produced an anime adaptation of the story as episode 15 of their Japanese anime series Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple with the same title: The Blue Geranium. The episode was broadcast in 2004 and features Miss Marple and her great niece Mabel West.
Publication history[edit | edit source]
- 1929 The Story-Teller Magazine (London), issue 272 December 1929
- 1930 Pictorial Review (New York), Vol. 31 No. 5, February 1930, illustrated by De Alton Valentine
- 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