Christie wrote several books with nursery rhymes themes, HICKORY DICKORY DEATH being another. She also dealt with dysfunctional families several times, HERCULE POIROT'S CHRISTMAS and 4:50 FROM PADDINGTON were two. In this work she combined the two ideas.
Rex Fortescue was a very rich and quite unpleasant man. He ran his family and his business with an iron fist. One morning his very efficient secretary took in his morning tea and found him dying. While investigating his death the police were met with one puzzle after another, what killed Mr. Fortescue?, how was it administered? and why did he have a pocket full of rye grain? As they were beginning to get some answers another murder occurred and then yet another each bringing more confusion to the scene.
Jane Marple arrives to the house and begins to sort through the tangle of clues to steer the police in the right direction.
This story may seem quite familiar. The Fortescue family is Christie's standard - domineering, wealthy father who keeps most of his family trapped in the family home, under his control. An errant "black sheep" child returns just as the murders begin and there are many family secrets.
Although the story is somewhat formulistic it is still a well told tale and a fairly laid out puzzle. All the clues are there for the reader to use to try to solve the mystery before the last chapter. The only drawbacks for Miss Marple fans are that Miss Marple doesn't arrive nearly half way through the book and that it is not set in St. Mary Mead.