These short stories all appear under their original titles (alternate titles are noted). If you're interested in Joan Hickson's unabridged narration of the 4 Jane Marple stories herein, see the recording MISS MARPLE INVESTIGATES. They are among the few Marple short stories that don't appear in THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS collection. Two of the Poirot cases, on the other hand, appear in HERCULE POIROT'S EARLY CASES, while the third appears in THE ADVENTURE OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING collection.
"Three Blind Mice" - None of Christie's regular characters appear; this tale corresponds to the play 'The Mousetrap'. Once upon a time, in 1940, three young children were evacuated and sent to live at Longridge Farm. The Greggs treated them barbarously, and after one boy died, Mr. Gregg was killed escaping from the police, and Mrs. Gregg went to prison. Now Mrs. Gregg has been murdered just after her release from prison, and the next target appears to be a young woman at Monkswell Manor - but the murderer could be either the boy or the girl (now grown up), the Davises don't know the background of any of their paying guests - and they're snowed in.
"Strange Jest" - Miss Marple has a missing will problem - except that in this case, the assets rather than the will itself are hidden. The stories I can think of with this theme are all of the form: wealthy uncle decides to amuse himself at his heirs' expense, and hides their inheritance. (Sayers' "The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager's Will" from LORD PETER VIEWS THE BODY is a stronger story than "Strange Jest" - the uncle not only had a purpose in hiding the will, but a wicked sense of humor.)
"Tape-Measure Murder" and "The Case of the Perfect Maid", like most Marple short stories (and unlike the novels) are set in St. Mary Mead. In the first case, mild Mr. Spenlow is suspected by the village of murdering his wife, whose body was discovered by a dressmaker coming in for a fitting. In the second, Miss Marple is asked to intercede with the Skinner sisters when they fire their maid, Gladys, with an implication of theft. The slur on her character is compounded when the Skinners bring in an outsider who appears to be a paragon - too good to be true. (As a bonus, the village eagerly awaits Dr. Haydock's first professional encounter with the hypochondriac Miss Emily, and he comes up to scratch.)
To speed Miss Marple's recovery from a serious illness, Dr. Haydock writes up "The Case of the Caretaker" as a story-within-a-story for Miss Marple to get her teeth into. The end of Haydock's manuscript is an implied 'Challenge to the Reader', since at that point one has all the information needed to solve the puzzle; most of the stories of the Marple collection THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS share this feature, although the other 3 Marple stories in this collection do not.
"The Third-Floor Flat" When Patricia Garnett finds herself locked out of her 4th floor flat after a double date, one of the young men climbs up the coal lift ("Pat *never* locks and bolts things"), but gets out on the wrong floor - and discovers the body of Pat's downstairs neighbour. Poirot, her upstairs neighbour, offers his help after being roused by the commotion.
"The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly" (a.k.a. "At the Stroke of Twelve") The only Poirot story in this collection narrated by Hastings. Why did the kidnapper send threatening notes to the Waverlys *before* snatching their little boy?
"Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds", a.k.a. "Poirot and the Regular Customer" - Listening to this one read by David Suchet may make you hungry; be warned. A friend of Poirot's has taken him to the Gallant Endeavour, a picturesque restaurant with very reliable cooking. The friend points out an elderly fellow diner who appears twice a week like clockwork and has very predictable eating habits, so the staff knows him, although they don't know his name, business, or anything else about him. Molly, the waitress, adds that he came in on *Monday* the previous week, and ordered stuff he ordinarily couldn't abide - she worried that she'd forgotten what day of the week it was! Poirot feels uneasy - later he felt that he should have forseen what was coming, and prevented it. :)
"The Love Detectives", a.k.a. "At the Crossroads" (30 October 1926) - One of the few Quin & Satterthwaite stories that doesn't appear in THE MYSTERIOUS MR. QUIN. Satterthwaite, staying with an old friend who happens to be chief constable, is carried along to a murder investigation. After finding out about the blunt instrument and the body in the library, you may start taking a hard look at the butler, but the investigators are themselves aware of the cliche, so don't be suckered on appearances.