The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor is a short story written by Agatha Christie, which was first published in The Sketch in May 1923 in the U.K. The story was published in the U.S. in The Blue Book Magazine in March 1924 as "The Marsdon Manor Tragedy. In 1924 also, the story appeared as part of the anthology Poirot Investigates.

Synopsis

Poirot is asked by an insurance company to investigate the death of a man who had recently insured his life for a considerable sum.

Plot summary

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Poirot has been asked by a friend, who is the director of the Northern Union Insurance Company, to investigate the case of a middle-aged man who died of an internal haemorrhage just a few weeks after insuring his life for fifty thousand pounds. There were rumours that the man – Mr Maltravers – was in a difficult financial position and the suggestion has been made that he paid the insurance premiums and then committed suicide for the benefit of his beautiful young wife.

Poirot and Hastings travel to Marsdon Manor in Essex where the dead man was found in the grounds, with a small rook rifle by his side. They interview the widow and can find nothing wrong. They are leaving when a young man, Captain Black, arrives. A gardener tells Poirot that he visited the house the day before the death. Poirot interviews Black and by using word association finds out that he knew of someone who committed suicide with a rook rifle in East Africa when he was out there. Poirot realises that this story, told at the dinner table the day before the tragedy, gave Mrs Maltravers the idea as to how to kill her husband by making him demonstrate to her how the African farmer would have put the gun in his mouth. She then pulled the trigger and the unsuspicious local doctor certified a natural death. Mr Maltravers is then seen by a maid in the garden. She thinks that it was just a mistake, but then in the living room a strange thing happens. The lights suddenly go out and Mrs Maltravers clasps Poirot's hand. Mr Maltravers suddenly appears in the room, his index finger glowing and pointing at Mrs Maltravers' hand, which is covered in his blood. She is scared to death and confesses. Poirot explains that he hired a man to impersonate Mr Maltravers and turn off the lights. When Mrs Maltravers grabbed Poirot's hand, he put fake blood on hers. The man applied phosphorescent to his finger to make it glow and pointed to the woman's hand, which was covered in fake blood. She is terrified and confesses.

Characters

References to other works

Research notes

Film, TV, or theatrical versions

Agatha Christie's Poirot

A television film with David Suchet as Poirot was produced as episode 6 of Series 3 of the ITV series Agatha Christie's Poirot, first broadcast on 3 February 1991. The adaptation is faithful to the main premise of the original story as regards the manner of murder but many additional characters and scenes were added.

Murder Clinic

An adaptation by the Mutual Broadcasting Network (MBS) entitled "The Tragedy of Marsden Manor" was made as part of their Murder Clinic series and broadcast in America on 6 Oct 1942.

Publication history

  • 1923 The Sketch, Issue 1577 (London), 18 May 1923
  • 1924 Blue Book Magazine, Vol. 38 No. 5, March 1924 (as "The Marsdon Manor Tragedy")
  • 1924 Poirot Investigates, Bodley Head (London), 1924
  • 1925 Poirot Investigates, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1925
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