Study Guide

A Pocket Full of Rye

by Agatha Christie

A Pocket Full of Rye Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A Pocket Full of Rye opens with the death of Rex Fortescue, a successful but not universally liked financier. Curiously, rye is discovered in one of his pockets. In addition, it was not his afternoon tea that poisoned him but something that he had eaten at breakfast that contained taxine, a derivative of yew. Before long, Gladys Martin, the parlor maid, has been strangled, and Rex’s attractive second wife, Adele, has received a dose of cyanide in her tea.

The police are baffled, both by the methods the murderer has chosen to employ and by the number of motives. Adding to the confusion is the sudden appearance of Lancelot Fortescue and his wife Pat. Years before, Lance had moved to Africa after his father had turned him out of the house for ostensibly forging a check. According to him, he and his father had made their peace, and he has come back to enter the family business, much to the dismay of the oldest son, Percival, who resides at Yewtree Lodge with his wife, Jennifer. All parties stand to gain from the death of Rex Fortescue. Consequently, there are nearly as many motives as there are suspects, and no one can adequately account for his or her time. Adding to the confusion are the rye in Rex’s pocket and a clothespin clipped to the nose of Gladys Martin.

Miss Marple enters the Fortescue home as a former employer of Gladys Martin. She wants to see the girl’s murderer found. Inspector Neele quickly finds that Miss Marple is a valuable asset and asks that she lend a hand in finding out...

(The entire section is 623 words.)

A Pocket Full of Rye Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bargainnier, Earl E. The Gentle Art of Murder: The Detective Fiction of Agatha Christie. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1980.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Agatha Christie. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002.

Fitzgibbon, Russell H. The Agatha Christie Companion. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1980.

Keating, H. R. F., ed. Agatha Christie: First Lady of Crime. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977.

Makinen, Merja. Agatha Christie: Investigating Femininity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Norman, Andrew. Agatha Christie: Finished Portrait. Stroud, England: Tempus, 2006.

Osborne, Charles. The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie: A Biographical Companion to the Works of Agatha Christie. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.

Rowland, Susan. From Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell: British Women Writers in Detective and Crime Fiction. New York: Palgrave, 2001.

Tynan, Kathleen. Agatha. New York: Ballantine, 1978.