In honor of, and wither reverence to Geraldine McEwan (9 May 1932 – Jan 31,2015), may you solve the murders in heaven.
Miss Marple is invited out to Utah by her friend, Ann-Margaret, for a marriage of a younger cousin of Ann-Margaret. He is a friend of Heber J. Grant, and Grant is personally paying for the wedding. Ann-Margaret (called Margaret for short) talks all about the wedding and Utah, and being a mormon twittering rather like a bird.
At the train station they run into a man of some renown. Ann-Margaret introduces her friend to Elder Matthius Crowley. He has a train ticket in his pocket and is carrying a bag with him. The introductions are brief.
Ann-Margaret takes Miss Marple to see all the sights of 1920’s Salt Lake City.
They arrive at a party where they are introduced to Ann-Margaret’s neice. The fiancé is dressed in a brown hat of the period, with a brown knit-sweater over the sharp yellow shirt; and hums to herself with excitement when not directly being spoken to. Her dress is entirely English in appearance despite the girls western american accent. The girl almost explodes with excitement as they discuss the wedding and she praises the young man she is going to marry. They gaze across the party to a dapper young man dressed in a “Beau Brummel” inspired black suit. His name is Simeon Cowdery. He is talking to a man in a brown suit and cowboy hat as the women join them.
Niece: “This is Simeon Cowdery, my fiance. Simeon; this is Miss Marple a friend of my Aunt Margaret”
Simeon: “Nice to meet you. And lovely to see you again, Ann-Margaret. This is Elder Anthony Ivins, a cousin to Heber J. Grant, they call him the ‘Apostle Cowboy'”.
Miss Marple: “Are you Elder? I rather thought you younger than myself”.
Anthony Ivins: “I’m 66, ma’am, but the ‘Elder’ is just a title”
Miss Marple: “Ah you’re in the Church then? As that man we met at the train station must have been”
Anthony Ivins: “Yes ma’am”.
Simeon: “Elder Ivins is quite the frontier churchman. Repairs fences on Saturday, and gives sermons on Sunday, then goes to take care of the cattle after the sermon”
Anthony: Well, that was in Mexico. Those days seem to be behind me now. I’ve been called back home as the superintendent of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association.”
Lots of introductions to characters and connections to the young man are established mainly to throw the reader off who the actual murderer might be. Miss Marple notices Simeon’s looking at a girl who is off in the distance; and that he turns pale at the appearance. The girl runs off in a most undignified manner.
Miss Marple: “Are you alright my dear boy?”
Simeon: “Yes, fine” sniffing, he regains his composure; “Just thought I saw someone I knew is all.
Two days before the wedding; Simeon, the young man, is found poisoned, having vomited violently before.
Lester F. Wire, a police office, comes to investigate, and police chief B. E. grant comes in to oversee the situation as the man poisoned is of some renowned.
Wire: “Mr. Ferry isn’t going to like this.”
Police Chief: No, mayors don’t like publicity like this. Give me a regular assault any day over a planned murder of a prominent church member any day.”
Miss Marple is helping her friend prepare the girl attend to last minute wedding plans. Miss Marple asks is she is alright, as she seems very pale. The girl sweeps it aside as wedding nerves. Officer Wire arrives and begs a moment with the Miss. He informs the miss that her fiancé is dead and she steps to the side. Smiles briefly and breaks into tears, collapsing on to the floor.
Lots of scenes of the Police chief and Officer Wire asking in and about Salt Lake City. Cameos of 1920 famous Mormons, and a few false motives thrown in to keep the reader guessing.
Miss Marple finds herself in any number of parties and groups, one of which is the funeral of Joseph F. Smith. She is there next to the Mayor; and strikes up a conversation about mormon’s belief in eternal marriage. She works the conversation to ask what the young man died of and it comes out it was taxin poison, common in England but a bit rare for a desert like Utah.
Miss Marple remembers yew leaves, from England. She remembers the niece talking about spending her vacation in England.
Niece: “Although they call it “Holiday there”.
Miss Marple remembers the neice mentioning she went to England because her Fiance was going to be busy for a few weeks.
Miss marple’s worried face becomes hard set. She asks the Fiance niece of her friend Margaret if she might see the boys room after the funeral. They look around, and the girl is visibly uncomfortable. Discussion about how the family is still treating her like family even though they weren’t married yet. Miss Marple looks through the closet, and find a ticket, she reads it, and replaces it.
She asks the girl if the young man had any other admirers. “Not that I know of” comes the reply, with a worried face. “Do you think some other girl killed him?”
Miss Marple: “No my dear, I don’t think some other girl did.”
Miss Marple arranges a garden party with all the relevant individuals into one room.
Margaret: “It’s such a shame. He was a fine young man. And now my niece will not marry him.”
Miss Marple: “Well, I think it’s fine she didn’t marry him.”
Margaret: “Why, whyever not?”
Miss Marple: “The problem is, the young man was already married.”
B. E. Grant: “I’m sorry, ma’am, whatever do you mean”.
Miss Marple: “I think you’ll find Mr. Grant, that in the pocket of one of the young man’s suits there is a return ticket from Mexico.”
Miss Marple pauses, while Mr. Grant reacts.
“I happened upon it during the funeral when the young miss let me see his room. Many young men do not empty their pockets long after their travels and I thought that the young man’s disappearance for a few weeks just before a wedding might be accounted for. Yes, and I don’t think the young man paid for that trip himself. Quite costly and as we established earlier he was just getting his start in the community.”
Margaret: “But, my dear, whatever makes me think he was already married”
Miss Marple: “His traveling companion. Remember, you introduced me Mr. Crowley; the other one called “Elder”. His bag still had his information on it he mentioned recently returning from Mexico. It was easy to conclude they were on the same train. And as we now know, Mr. Ivins was performing plural marriages in Mexico that the church no longer recognizes. Mr. Crowley’s wife had another woman she spent the majority of the time talking to at the garden party, and I may be old, but I recognize a jealous wife meeting the new mistress when I see it. So clearly Mr. Crowley was getting married to a new bride in Mexico, about as young as your niece if I am not mistake. The curious thing here is it was the boy’s first marriage. Of course, if he came back married by someone in Mexico that wasn’t supposed to be marrying anyone according to U.S. Law and the church’s claims it would highlight the whole marriage operation and so he had to return single.
But he returned to this girl and marriage came up just after he returned. He had no reason to want to break off the courting and, of course, with all he had learned in Mexico; he thought it no big deal to marry two women; men can be like that you know, but I shouldn’t wonder that his new bride-to-be was less thrilled at the prospect.”
B.E. Grant: You mean she poisoned the boy.
Miss Marple: “It was either her, or the secret wife. But that poor girl seems of such circumstance that she could hardly have obtained yew leaves from England. I’m sorry Margaret, m’dear but your niece’s spurned heart may have driven her to do something drastic.”
Margaret: I simply cannot believe it.
Miss Marple: Really, do think of how she smiled when she heard the news of his death. Oh she was truly distraught, for I believe she really did love the boy; but the relief of his passing and her not being detected… that’s hard for human nature to hide.
Turning to Elder Ivins.
Miss Marple: I’ve been reading your Book of Mormon at nights while here, it does wonders to help with my insomnia, but there is something I find curious. It talks of polygamy as a “greater iniquity”, breaking the hearts of wives and children, causing many hearts to die, pierced with deep wounds”. Did you think edged weapons were the only means of death for a woman so wronged?”
B. E. Grant: Blimey, how can I arrest a girl like that? She’s young and well connected.
Miss Marple: “Oh, I don’t think you will. No if you were to reveal her as the murderer, and even begin to discuss motive in court, the entire Mexican marriage operation would necessarily be revealed. No no, I’m sorry but with your close ties to the religion and state to prosecute her would mean prosecuting all of your church leaders and exposing them. Best to let the dear girl deal with her conscience and find another man who is a touch more faithful than to run off to another country for a second wife. “Eternal marriage” is what every girl dreams of, but being the second wife for eternity may not suit a woman’s jealous nature. Sometimes justice is found in the law, and sometimes it is found in spite of it.”