A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

April 14, 2009

murder-is-announced Even though Miss Jane Marple is one of Agatha Christie’s most beloved detectives, I have been extremely disappointed in my experiences with this character. She has appeared in three of Christie’s novels thus far: Murder at the Vicarage, The Body in the Library, and The Moving Finger, and while all were superb stories, the Miss Marple character herself didn’t come across as anything particularly special. I hoped this would change in Marple’s fourth novel, A Murder is Announced, because I wanted to discover why this is such a revered character in mystery annals. And that is indeed what happened!

Plot summary (with possible spoilers): While at breakfast one morning, Letitia Blacklock, owner of a house called Little Paddocks in a village known as Chipping Cleghorn, notices an announcement in the Personals section of the newspaper. It says, “”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.” Letty has no idea what the announcement means, as she didn’t place it herself. She asks her young cousins Simon and Julia if they’ve had anything to do with it, but they’re quick to deny involvement.

Thinking the whole thing to be some elaborate joke, Letty conducts business as usual at the house on the appointed day. Naturally, curious neighbors who have also seen the ad begin to arrive shortly before 6:30, and Letty allows them to come in, deciding to turn the event into a little party.

Then, at the appointed time, the lights suddenly cut out, and a gun-wielding intruder arrives, telling all the guests to stick their hands up. Some people scream, some comply, and some, simply thinking this is part of the joke, do nothing. Then, shots ring out, and general confusion ensues. Letty appears to have been grazed by a bullet, while the would-be robber is dead — apparently from a self-inflicted wound.

The police are naturally called in at this point, and the rest of the novel deals with the investigation. Miss Marple, who happens to be staying in the area with her niece, is unofficially invited to give her input on the evidence, and before long, she starts to piece together what actually happened. There are numerous twists and turns along the way, and, as expected from a Christie novel, a couple more murders before Christie presents readers with a surprising, satisfying solution.

My Reaction: I would definitely place A Murder is Announced in the top 10 of all the Agatha Christie novels I’ve read thus far. This was the 50th book she published, and she certainly marked the milestone in a memorable way! The setup was terrific — announcing a murder well beforehand in a newspaper — and dragged me into the plot immediately, which I think is an important component for any mystery story. Moreover, the characters were memorable, and the solution was difficult to figure out, yet definitely possible for the careful reader. (For the record, I didn’t know who the killer was until the reveal.)

If there was one weakness in the book, I would say it was the fact that the investigation seemed to drag out for an unusually long time. Instead of just having the police detectives or Miss Marple going around questioning suspects, Christie also had several of the characters who were in the house on the night of the murder trying to figure out what happened. While this is probably more realistic, it made the novel a bit draggy in parts and wasn’t as interesting as when Miss Marple or Craddock had the floor.

On the whole, however, I would recommend A Murder is Announced without hesitation. I think it’s one of Christie’s best, and Miss Marple actually has a decent-sized role in the investigation. Check it out for yourself if you’re looking for a good mystery to read! I give the book 4 stars out of 5.

One Response to “A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie”

  1. This was a lesson at my school I found the soloution very excting how it changed what happened in the story (WARNING SPOILER) I myself am called charlotte and I am delighted to know that I didn’t die 😉

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