Early one winter afternoon, a brutal murder occurs on Culver Street in Paddington. Witnesses heard someone whistling the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice” just before the victim had screamed. Later that afternoon, in the Great Hall of Monkswell Manor, Mollie and Giles Ralston prepare for the opening of their guest house, worrying about the effects of the severe snowstorm outside and their own inexperience in their new venture. Giles leaves, joking that since they know so little about their guests some might even be criminals. Alone, Mollie turns on the radio, where a description of the Culver Street murderer is being broadcast. The announcer mentions the suspect’s dark overcoat, light scarf, and felt hat just as Mollie picks up Giles’s dark coat, scarf, and hat.
Shortly afterward, the first guest, Christopher Wren, arrives, followed by Mrs. Boyle and Major Metcalf, who had been forced by the weather to share a taxi from the train station. Mrs. Boyle immediately begins to criticize the manor and the Ralstons’s inexperience, but she refuses Giles’s offer to take her back to the station. Moments later, the last expected guest, Miss Casewell, rings the bell. After settling the guests in their rooms, Mollie and Giles lament that they all seem either peculiar or unpleasant. To their surprise, the doorbell rings once again and an elderly foreign gentleman, Mr. Paravicini, staggers in. He tells them that his car is trapped in a snowdrift and that Monkswell Manor would soon be cut off by the snow.
The next morning, Mollie receives a call from the Berkshire police, who tell her that they have discovered a connection between the Culver Street murder and the manor; because the manor is now snowbound, a Sergeant Trotter will ski there to provide them with protection. When Trotter arrives, they learn that the victim in the Culver Street murder, together with her husband, had several years earlier been convicted of criminal neglect after the death of the youngest of three children placed in their protection. A notebook found near the crime scene held two addresses, one on Culver Street and the other of Monkswell Manor. Underneath were written the words “This is the first” and the notes of “Three Blind Mice.” The police assume that one of the older children had chosen to avenge the brother. The girl in the case had disappeared long ago, and the eldest boy had deserted from the army after being diagnosed as schizophrenic. Trotter advises that anyone with a connection to the case should reveal it, since they could be in danger, but no one responds. After Trotter leaves to search the house, Major Metcalf accuses Mrs. Boyle of being the magistrate who had sent the children to the home. She admits this but denies having done anything wrong.
Trotter, returning to telephone his supervisor, finds that the phone line is dead and investigates. Mrs. Boyle enters the empty hall and shuts the door. When the door opens again, she turns nervously, but relaxes...
(The entire section is 2,175 words.)