Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?
The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes;
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.
This, in short, is the plot of A Pocketful of Rye.
Agatha Christie had a real affinity for nursery rhymes. Many of her novels and short stories are named after nursery rhymes. A Pocketful of Rye gets its name from the nursery rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence.
A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in 1953 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company the following year.
The setting of the story is classic Christie. A large household filled with unpleasant people were everyone has a motive and any of them might have been the killer.
The bodies pile up amazingly quickly which is unusual for a Marple mystery.
Among the characters, I found the character of the chief investigator Inspector Neele to be kind of different. He is quite young and not portrayed in the usual way the police are portrayed in detective books. He kind of reminds me of Inspector Craddock, another young detective from the Marple stories. I felt sorry for Jennifer Fortescue. Getting what you want may not always be a good thing.
In this novel, Miss Marple is much sterner and much more eager to catch the killer. She had known one of the victims and it is her death that makes Miss Marple angrier than I’ve ever seen her before. Inspector Neele calls her ‘avenging fury’ (though he admits she does not look like the popular idea of it).
Miss Marple deduces the identity of the killer once again through her infinite knowledge of the ‘Human Nature’. I was kind of surprised by the identity of the killer. Because it is not the usual type Christie goes with (not that there hasn’t been one or two exceptions to this rule in some of Agatha Christie’s books).
The narrative is crisp and enjoyable. The book almost reads itself.
A Pocket Full of Rye is a very entertaining Miss Marple novel. Mystery buffs will definitely enjoy this engaging little problem. Recommended.