A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

A Murder is Announced was first published in 1950. My copy is in a collection of four Miss Marple stories – A Miss Marple Quartet. I particularly like this cover, showing Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.

Synopsis from Amazon:

The villagers of Chipping Cleghorn, including Jane Marple, are agog with curiosity over an advertisement in the local gazette which reads: €˜A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.’

A childish practical joke? Or a hoax intended to scare poor Letitia Blacklock? Unable to resist the mysterious invitation, a crowd begins to gather at Little Paddocks at the appointed time when, without warning, the lights go out€¦

Of course it isn’t a practical joke and someone is murdered. But the mystery is to identify the victim – it’s not as straight forward as it first appears and there are plenty of red herrings. I vaguely remembered seeing the TV version (with Joan Hickson, perfect as Miss Marple) years ago and although I couldn’t remember who did it knew that I had to pay close attention to the detail of where people were sitting or standing in the room at the Little Paddocks when the lights went out. But even though I read it very carefully I was still baffled. It all hinges on family relationships and details of the characters’ identities which are so skilfully hidden that I was kept guessing until very near the end.

It’s not without flaws, some of the characters are a bit sketchy, and some of the novel borders on farce, with Miss Marple imitating a dead person’s voice whilst hiding in a broom cupboard and Mitzi, the highly strung and paranoid cook, a refugee from Germany, screaming like a siren and insisting that the police will take her away and torture her. Still, I wish her recipe for the chocolate cake ‘Delicious Death’ had been revealed.

What I really like about A Murder is Announced is the picture it paints of life in post-war Britain, showing how society was in the process of change. Miss Marple is her usual brilliant self, now seeming very old with ‘snow white hair and a pink crinkled face and very soft innocent blue eyes’, chattering and fluttering, but still as sharp and observant as ever. As she explains the world has changed since the war when everyone knew who everybody was. But now people come and settle in a village and all you know of them is what they say of themselves – you don’t know who they really are! And so, she compares them to the people she does know, people in her village of St Mary Mead, which helps to throw light on the mystery. It’s a layered mystery involving past illness, identities, and questions of inheritance.

7 thoughts on “A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie”

  1. Margaret – You’ve put your finger on the things that make this novel really work (at least for me). I do like the portrait of post-war England as well as of course a neat little mystery. And yes, Miss Marple’s character is great here. Even if there are a few things that push the limit just a bit, it’s a great story.

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  2. Hi Margaret,

    Since hubbie has been working from home, I never have an evening where I have control over the TV remote, so watching my favourite mystery / detective programmes, is only a dim and distant memory. However … last week he was away for an evening, so I caught up with an episode of ‘Murder She Wrote’ and one of ‘Poirot’s’ cases … bliss!

    I have read most of the Agatha Christie books, however I have to confess that I prefer to watch the stories televised, or as films. The characters really come to life and surround me in the story, in a way that the books just don’t, although of course the written word is still a masterpiece in its genre.

    I have to say, that I am so glad that I don’t live in a very intimate village community like St. Mary Mead. It must be nice in some ways to have neighbours and friends to pass the time of day with, but on the other hand, everyone knowing everyone else’s business, wouldn’t be for me, I’m a little too private for that.

    Don’t forget that ITV is showing the first of the last four Poirot cases on television starting tonight (Wednesday) I shall be thinking of you as I am watching something far less exciting on another channel!

    Yvonne

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  3. I like this plot too, despite the implausibilities. And Margaret, when I went to Greenway, I found the National Trust had published a recipe for Delicious Death!

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