One morning in the fictional English village of St. Mary Mead, a maid finds a body in the library. She wakes retired Colonel Bantry and his wife to inform them that a youngwoman is dead in their library. The police are called and a complex investigation ensues, spanning the two fictional counties of Radfordshire.
The victim is dressed flamboyantly in a tawdry satinevening dress, with hair dyed platinum blonde and heavy make-up. Medical proves that the cause of death to be strangulation. Nevertheless, Mrs Bantry realises that as long as the murder remains unsolvedher husband will be a target for suspicion and gossip, so she invites Miss Marple, the village's amateur sleuth, to investigate. It soon turns out that Mrs Bantry's fears were justified, as thepopulace of the small village exaggerate details of the crime, and they blame at Colonel Bantry.
After some deliberation, all local people are turned on the Colonel. The Chief Constable of police, a retiredColonel himself, is more inclined to suspect on Basil Blake. The latter is a minor technician in the film industry who lives the ostentatious, party-going lifestyle of a Hollywood star. Blake,however, has an alibi for the time of death.
The victim is identified as eighteen-year old Ruby Keene, a professional dancer working at the Majestic Hotel. The body is identified by Ruby's cousin andcolleague Josie Turner, who rather than being shocked or upset, seems unaccountably angry at the dead girl's death. Josie was forced to hire Ruby to take over some of her dancing duties after Josiesuffered a sprained ankle.
The focus of the investigation then shifts from St. Mary Mead to Danemouth, and the Majestic Hotel. Besides Josie, the other staff member of interest to the police is RaymondStarr. It was when Ruby failed to turn up for a midnight exhibition dance with Starr that her disappearance was noticed. The last person to have seen Ruby alive was one of the guests, a young man named...