The Case of the Missing Will is a short story by Agatha Christie which was first published in The Sketch in 1923 in the U.K. It the U.S., the story was first published in The Blue Book Magazine in 1925. The story was gathered and included in the collection Poirot Investigates, published by Bodley Head in 1924 in the U,K, and Dodd, Mead and Company in the U.S. in 1925. It is one of the early Poirot stories.
Plot[edit | edit source]
Poirot receives an unusual request for help from a Miss Violet Marsh. She was orphaned at fourteen years of age and went to live with her Uncle Andrew, recently returned from making his fortune in Australia, at his large farmhouse in Devon. He had old-fashioned views about the education of women and was opposed to his niece bettering herself through book learning. Violet rebelled against him and managed to get herself in Girton College some nine years before. Although somewhat strained, she maintained cordial relations with Andrew Marsh who died a month ago leaving a will with a strange clause. The will is dated March 25 and timed at 11.00am. Marsh has given instructions that his "clever" niece is allowed to live in his house for one year and in that time she has to "prove her wits". If at the end of that time she hasn’t, all his worldly goods go to charitable institutions and she is left with nothing. Poirot is as convinced as Miss Marsh that there is either a second will or a sum of money hidden in the house and agrees to look for it.
Travelling to Devon, Poirot and Hastings are looked after by Mr and Mrs Baker, Marsh’s kindly housekeepers. They tell Poirot that they signed and witnessed two wills as Marsh said he had made a mistake with the first although they didn’t see the contents. Immediately after this transaction, Marsh left the house to settle tradesmen’s accounts without divulging anything further. Looking round the house, Poirot is pleased with the dead man’s order and method with the exception of one aspect – the key to a rolltop desk is not affixed to a neat label but instead to a dirty envelope. Poirot interviews some workmen who created a secret cavity in the wall for Marsh but finds nothing there. After a long search, he declares himself beaten and is about to return to London when he suddenly remembers the visit Marsh made to the tradesmen after the will was signed. He rushes back to the house and holds up the opened envelope to the fire. Faint writing in invisible ink appears which is a will dated after the one in Violet’s possession leaving everything to her. Marsh had had the Bakers sign two wills as a ruse. The tradesmen in town signed the true second will which he turned into an envelope attached to a key and this was out of keeping with his other household methods as a deliberate clue. According to Poirot, Miss Marsh has proven her superior intelligence – she employed him on the case!
Characters[edit | edit source]
- Hercule Poirot
- Arthur Hastings
- Violet Marsh
- Roger Marsh
- Andrew Marsh
- Jim Baker
- Mrs Baker
- Albert Pike
- Jessie Pike
Film, TV, or theatrical versions[edit | edit source]
Agatha Christie's Poirot[edit | edit source]
A television film with David Suchet as Poirot as episode 2 in Season 5 of the ITV series Agatha Christie's Poirot, first broadcast on 7 February 1993. Although some of the characters such as Andrew Marsh and Violet are retained, there are significant changes to the plot that it virtually constitutes a different story.
Publication history[edit | edit source]
- 1923 The Sketch, Issue 1605 (London), 31 October 1923
- 1924 Blue Book Magazine, Vol. 40 No. 3 (Chicago), January 1925 (as The Missing Will)
- 1924 Bodley Head (London) (as part of Poirot Investigates)
- 1925 Dodd Mead and Company (New York) (as part of Poirot Investigates)