Agatha Christie: A Murder is Announced

Once more a murder is announced—for the benefit and enjoyment of Miss Marple.

A_Murder_is_AnnouncedA Murder is Announced, a Miss Marple mystery, was Agatha Christie’s 50th book (although according to Wikipedia they fudged the numbers a bit) and one of her best, I think.

It has a fantastic hook. The personal column of the North Benham News and Chipping Cleghorn Gazette carries a very unusual announcement:

A murder is announced … and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.

The residents of Chipping Cleghorn turn up expecting a murder game, only to find that the owner of Little Paddocks, Miss Blacklock, denies all knowledge of the ad. Nonetheless, a murder does take place at 6.30 p.m., right there in the drawing room under the noses of the village’s chief residents. The victim, Rudi Scherz, is a Swiss waiter and ne’er-do-well from a hotel in nearby Medenham Wells.

The story has an almost comically Christie-ish cast:

  • Miss Blacklock’s childhood friend Dora ‘Bunny’ Bunner,
  • Patrick and Julia Simmons, Miss Blacklock’s young cousins,
  • Phillipa Haymes, a beautiful but stand-offish war widow,
  • Colonel Easterbrook, just back from India, and his younger, glamorous wife Laura,
  • Mrs Swettenham and her novelist son Edmund,
  • Two friends, Miss Hinchcliffe (tough, mannish) and Miss Murgatroyd (giggles),
  • Reverend Julian Harmon and his wife ‘Bunch’.

Christie’s spinster-sleuth Miss Marple happens to be holidaying at Rudy Scherz’s hotel, and is invited to help by the Chief Constable. She soon embeds herself into the village thanks to knowing Bunch Harmon’s parents. She understands village life, and is of much assistance to the regular police.

I read A Murder is Announced as one of my contributions to the Crimes of the Century #1950book challenge, and I couldn’t have chosen better. The entire book is about what life was like back then (well, OK, what life was like for Agatha Christie folk). It starts with the small ads in the Gazette and the servant problem.

‘H’m, Selina Lawrence s advertising for a cook again. I could tell her its a waste of time advertising in these days. She hasn’t put her address, only a box number – that’s quite fatal – I could have told her so – servants simply insist on knowing where they are going. They like a good address.’

After that, almost every page has some little post-war gem. Shortages:

‘I suppose there was once heaps of coke and coal for everybody?’ said Julia with the interest of one hearing about an unknown country.
‘Yes, and cheap, too.’
‘And anyone could go and buy as much as they wanted, without filling in anything?’

The changing role of women in the labour market:

‘…won’t listen, these young ladies won’t! Think they know everything because they’ve put on breeches and gone for a rid on tractor.’

The post-war refugee experience:

‘I am upset,’ said Mitzi dramatically. ‘I do not wish too die! Already in Europe I escape. Mt family they all dies – they are all killed..’

Even the solution relies on the confusion of the post-war world and the loss of traditional social structures. Very much a comment on the times.


A Murder is Announced
Agatha Christie
First published in the UK by Collins, 1950
This edition 1993, HarperCollinsPublishers
ISBN: 9780006165286
Source: Mrs Offences
Final destination: A keeper

See also:

ahsweetmysteryblog: How does one find something new to say about A Murder Is Announced? If you’re a newcomer to Agatha Christie, I could tease you about the plot. And if you’re a veteran, chances are good that this Miss Marple story rates as one of your favorites. It certainly is one of the fairest of the Miss Marple mysteries, which tend to be more loosely clued than the Poirot books.

Christie in a Year: What makes me wonder about the book is the creation of a Colonel Easterbrook and his wife. The colonel is said to have served in India. I find it strange that Christie did not breathe a word about the partition and probably the aftermath from the Colonel’s point of views. I was thinking: was it too sensitive (as well as upsetting) to mention about  the British government and the English readers in general?  To my mind he seems to be there because it is his revolver, which has been fired and killed Scherz. Such a waste.

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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9 Responses to Agatha Christie: A Murder is Announced

  1. Probably my favourite Marple – it’s got an overused Christie trick in it, but uses it wonderfully. My review’s at https://classicmystery.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/a-murder-is-announced-by-agatha-christie/

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  2. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    One of her classics. Now you’ve made me want to go off and start reading her chronologically or something!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bkfriedman says:

    Great post, Rich! I love how much we learn about post-War England here (at least, as you point out, the way Christie’s peers must have seen it!)

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  4. Santosh Iyer says:

    This is one of my favourites. A brilliant novel with an ingenious plot. I give it a 5 star rating.

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  5. JJ says:

    Particularly in her war and post-war novels Christie is remarkably adept at dropping in little bits of historical context. Taxation is a particular dislike of her characters, I seem to remember…

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  6. Bev Hankins says:

    This is a good one. Her social commentary, as has been pointed out, is excellent–both subtle and on point.

    Like

  7. Pingback: Review: A Murder is Announced (1950) by Agatha Christie | A Crime is Afoot

  8. Pingback: ‘A mud fight at a village fair’: #1950book results | Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

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