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The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor is the sixth episode of series 3 of the ITV British television drama series Agatha Christie's Poirot featuring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, first broadcast on 3 February 1991 in the UK. The episode is an adaptation of the Agatha Christie short story of the same name and was directed by Renny Rye with dramatisation by David Renwick.


Poirot and Hastings travel to Marsdon Leigh in response to a letter about an insoluble murder. When they get there, they discover that the letter only concerned a matter of fiction; soon after, however, a man is found dead on the grounds of the allegedly haunted estate.

The TV adaptation is faithful to main premise of the original short story in how the killing was done. Otherwise, the barebones plot of the original story had to be embellished and additional characters and scenes had to be added to flesh out the plot. The reason Poirot goes to Marsdon Leigh is different. Japp is present but Miss Lemon is not.

Comparison with Original Story[]

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

Only the manner in which the killing is done and the way the killer is made to confessed is preserved. Otherwise there are substantial embellishments to the plot.

Poirot and Hastings do not go to Marsdon Leigh to investigate a possible insurance fraud. They go in response to a letter from an innkeeper, Samuel Naughton, about an insoluble murder. Too late, when they get there, they discover (they were told but failed to notice), that it is only the plot Naughton's murder novel. He's a budding novelist and has gotten his plot in a tangle: all his suspects have perfect alibis.

Poirot and Hastings seek to leave but on the way, bump into some policeman responding to the report of Mr Maltravers' death. They ask come along Poirot to help. Everyone thinks it is a natural death but Poirot notices that the body has been moved. So he calls Japp. Japp gives Poirot the details of Maltravers' insurance policy and financial situation and suggests the possibility of suicide and insurance fraud.

Mrs Maltravers is highly strung and insists its the ghost she saw in the cedar tree in the garden which had killed her husband. Next there's an attempt on her life when someone slips chloroform into her gas mask during a civil defence exercise. Suspicion falls on Captain Black. He was a dinner guest at Marsdon Manor the night before the murder. He had paid for a week in advance at the inn and then left suddenly. Just as suddenly he had come back. Japp arrests him but Poirot has his doubts. Poirot presses him and Black admits that he is in love with Mrs Maltravers. He was on his way to his ship and read of Maltravers death in the newspaper and came back to help. The mention of a newspaper jogs Poirot's memory. He remembers seeing Black's present for Mrs Maltravers. It had been wrapped in an East African newspaper.

Hastings accompanies Mrs Maltravers home. She gives Hastings a painting which she had painted the morning of her husbands death. Poirot looks at the painting and says it tells the whole story. Mrs Maltravers has invited them for dinner. Poirot is ready for the denouement.

The dinner follows the same lines as in the original story, except that actor for the ghost of Maltravers is innkeeper Samuel Naughton wearing a wax mask cast from the face of the dead man.

After Mrs Maltravers is arrested, Poirot explains. She had talked of ghosts to frighten her husband to death given his poor health but it didn't work. Then the Captain Black's present came wrapped in a newspaper. It had a story of how an East African farmer committed suicide with a rook rifle. She tries it, dumps the rifle into a hedge and drags the body to the cedar tree where she had claimed to have seen a ghost. She even faked an attempt on her own life to divert attention. She couldn't retrieve the rook rifle because Japp had stationed a constable in the garden the whole time. As for the painting, the shadows were in the wrong direction, so it must have been painted before, not the morning of Maltravers' death.

Poirot does work out a plausible murderer for Naughton's novel in the end.


Tropes and themes[]

Filming Locations[]

  • Reepham, Norfolk[1] - village scenes
  • the Old Brewery House (also known as the Dial House, note the sundial over the door) - "The Red Anchor" exteriors
  • The Bircham Centre, Market Place, Reepham - the wax museum
  • Carlton House and Melton House, Church Hill, Reepham - doctor's clinic. Poirot and Hastings rush out of here and run up Church Hill towards the church.
  • Reepham Town Hall - exterior of venue of civil defence meeting. Poirot and Hastings run through St. Mary's churchyard and enter this brick building.
  • The Normansfield Victorian Theatre - interior views of civil defence meeting
  • The Bookham Grange Hotel, Leatherhead, Surrey - hotel interiors
  • Sennowe Park, Norfolk - exteriors and interiors of Marsdon Manor

Research notes[]

  • There is a poster announcing National Civil Defence Day on Wednesday 4 September. Thus the year would likely be 1935.


Promotional Videos[]

See Also[]