Miss Marple has gone to visit a friend of hers from her school days, Ruth. Ruth is worried about her sister Carrie, who lives in the countryside in a mansion that has been partly converted into a home for juvenile delinquents (the bad kids don’t live with the family, there’s a separate building for them). Ruth knows Jane has experience with the dark side of life, and suggests that Jane pay a visit to Carrie. So off she goes.
Carrie’s third husband is the one responsible for converting the country house, she’s got a thing for men that want to save the world (or at least part of it). She has a daughter from her first marriage, as well as various other stepkids, and her granddaughter by an adopted daughter lives at the house too with her ex-GI American husband. Also resident is Jolly, who takes care of Carrie (she has arthritis) and weird Edgar who works for Carrie’s hub.
Miss Marple feels like there’s something wrong at the house, but can’t put her finger on what it may be. One of the stepsons comes to visit and meets with the husband. Jane overhears something heated, but can’t really tell what they’re saying (but her handy dandy binoculars help out – she’s so sly). Then Edgar has an argument with the husband in another room, within earshot of the whole family. They hear gunshots, but everyone assumes they came from out in the woods. That is until the stepson is found shot dead in his bedroom. And then it appears that someone is trying to kill Carrie. And Jane goes into full stealth-sleuth mode.
There are any number of suspects, because just about everyone stands to gain from Carrie’s death. Miss Marple figures it out when she realizes that some misdirection has been employed (she keeps remembering magic shows – and hence the name of the book). It was a pretty easy one to figure out, Christie dropped a lot of very heavy hints in this one. Doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, though.