A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie

“A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks, at 6:30 p.m. Friends accept this, the only intimation.”

A Murder Is AnnouncedIn Chipping Cleghorn, a bizarre message appears in the local paper, causing most of the village to turn up at Letitia Blacklock’s house at the appointed time. As 6:30 strikes, the lights go out, a voice calls “Stick ‘em up!” and three shots ring out. When the lights are restored, it is the intruder himself who lies dead, the gun lying beside him.

The first thought of everyone is that when he missed his target with the first two shots, he turned the gun on himself. But why attempt such an audacious crime? As it becomes apparent that the man, a worker at the local spa, was murdered, the case becomes even more perplexing. Luckily, there’s a visitor to Chipping Cleghorn, an old friend of the vicar’s wife. And Jane Marple has a nasty feeling that things are only going to get worse…

The fourth Miss Marple novel, and thus far they have been pretty good, but it had been seven years since The Moving Finger. No idea what cause the delay – but clearly the rest gave Agatha Christie time to construct an intricate mystery. This is extremely well constructed and fairly clued, some of the clues being hidden in plain sight. There’s a real sense of satisfaction as the solution is revealed as the clues fall into place. And I think the reader can only claim to have solved this one if the motive is sorted out as well – and again, there’s plenty to help you out there if you can put the pieces together.

But…

… the murderer is very guessable due to the set-up. It’s the same classic trick that Christie has already used in an earlier Poirot and will use again in a later Marple. I think this is the place that she pulls it off the best, and there’s still plenty of fun for the armchair sleuth to have by putting all of the pieces into place. This is a re-read for me – I first read it when I was about sixteen – and I’m pretty sure I worked most of it out then. But it’s still an engrossing read, one of her most entertaining. Highly Recommended.

Advertisements

15 comments

    • Those two, along with The Body In The Library, are some of the strongest Marples. I’ve fond memories of A Pocketful of Rye too, but it’s been a while. Just stay away from They Do It With Mirrors – so obvious

      Like

  1. This is one of my favourites. A brilliant novel with an ingenious plot. I would definitely put this in Miss Marple Top 5.
    I have also seen the 2 TV films 1985 and 2005 based on the novel. Both the films are faithful adaptations though there are some non-significant variations.
    For example, in the 1985 film, Mitzi is renamed Hannah and the male cat Tiglath Pileser is changed to the female cat Delilah. According to Mrs Harmon, the cat was christened as such by her husband and her moral standards are similar !
    There are more variations in the 2005 film. The 2 Harmons and Mrs Easterbrook are removed. Hinch and Murgatroyd are younger women with lesbian relationship. There is no cat; Miss Marple herself experiments and finds out the method of fusing. There are also some variations towards the end. Instead of the murderer attempting to kill a person, that person attempts to kill the murderer. Also, after being exposed, the murderer actually sees a ghost.
    In my opinion, the 1985 film is much better. It is slightly over two and half hours. This is a suitable running length since it gives enough time for the audience to absorb all the information, considering the complexity of the plot. The 2005 film is about one hour shorter and in my opinion too short for all the complexities of the plot to sink into the minds of the audience.

    Like

  2. Very fair review of one of my favourites. I also consider this novel to be one of the best applications of said “classic trick”, in Christie’s book or otherwise. So while I basically agree with your criticism, it’s still one of the most fabulous recommendations to give to readers who are not very familiar with the genre. (Every mystery is somebody’s first!)

    And, as you mention in the review, even if you deduce (or intuit) the murderer correctly, there is a lot of backstory to figure out before you can really say you knew the full solution.

    Other things to love here are 1) that the murderer’s secret makes it a rare pure mystery which is, actually and deeply, “about” something other than the puzzle (the fact that I am pretty sure was discussed in the comments in this very blog somewhere, but I can’t find it), and 2) one particular hidden-in-plain-sight clue (gur jrnenoyr bar).

    Funny story. In my first read, the mystery was made tougher to crack by the fact that my copy of the book was both translated and edited quite shoddily. So whilst I spotted one of the most important clues (another one, related to names) right away, I attributed it to a simple typo, until the truth was revealed at the end! 🙂 The only time poor quality control actually enhanced my reading experience!

    Like

  3. It only took me a solid year to read and respond, but I can’t resist this novel! I find it to be one of my favorites to re-read, pausing as each clue appears and savoring it. Yes, the solution stems from a classic – and oft redone – Christie trick, but so is “the murderous couple” ploy done again and again, and Christie manages to wring some wonderful variations out of THAT trick! And, as Erast Nameless points out above, the reversal here of what is going on rather than what we think is going on is very well done! (I love when Christie does that – After the Funeral is my favorite example and one of my very favorite Christies.)

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s