19 September 2021

Review: A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED, Agatha Christie

  • This edition an e-book published by Amazon (Kindle)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B000FC12YG
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ March 17, 2009
  • Originally published 1950
  • Miss Marple #5
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 240 pages

Synopsis (Amazon

The villagers of Chipping Cleghorn, including Jane Marple, are agog with curiosity over an advertisement in the local gazette which read: 'A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6:30 p.m.' Unable to resist the mysterious invitation, a crowd begins to gather at Little Paddocks at the pointed time when, without warning, the lights go out ...

My Take

This is another of my re-reads, so I can contribute to a book discussion on the first 5 or 6 Miss Marple novels. While Jane Marple was introduced in a set of short stories in the late 1920s, the first novels were spaced well apart.

The last in that list seems to be placed just after World War II has ended, and there is even thought that another war is inevitable, with reference to the horrors of atomic war. 
England has much changed, and it's residents are no longer necessarily English. There are many migrants, and people are no longer whom they seem to be.
Fifteen years ago one knew who everybody was. The Bantrys in the big house—and the Hartnells and the Price Ridleys and the Weatherbys … They were people whose fathers and mothers and grandfathers...

But it’s not like that any more. Every village and small country place is full of people who’ve just come and settled there without any ties to bring them. The big houses have been sold, and the cottages have been converted and changed. And people just come—and all you know about them is what they say of themselves.
They’ve come, you see, from all over the world.

There were just faces and personalities and they were backed up by ration books and identity cards—nice neat identity cards with numbers on them, without photographs or fingerprints. Anybody who took the trouble could have a suitable identity card —and partly because of that, the subtler links that had held together English social rural life had fallen apart. In a town nobody expected to know his neighbour. In the country now nobody knew his neighbour either, though possibly he still thought he did …

Miss Marple is introduced relatively early in this novel. She is staying at a local hotel, having treatment for her "rheumatic leg." she is introduced as an old "Pussy" who has written to the local police saying that she might have something to contribute in the matter of the recent murder that has taken place at Little Paddocks.

Miss Jane Marple was very nearly, if not quite, as Craddock had pictured her. She was far more benignant than he had imagined and a good deal older. She seemed indeed very old. She had snow-white hair and a pink crinkled face and very soft innocent blue eyes, and she was heavily enmeshed in fleecy wool. Wool round her shoulders in the form of a lacy cape and wool that she was knitting and which turned out to be a baby’s shawl.

There are a couple of sub-plots to keep the reader involved, and eventually 3 murders in the quiet little village of Chipping Cleghorn, and of course, a whole raft of red herrings.

Inspector Craddock the policeman from Scotland Yard is far better treated by Christie than Inspector Slack was in earlier novels. He also has a better appreciation of Miss Marple:

Well, perhaps you’re right, Miss Blacklock, but my own diagnosis would be a severe attack of Nosey Parkeritis …’ ‘She’s a very harmless old creature,’ said Miss Blacklock. ‘Dangerous as a rattlesnake if you only knew,’ the Inspector thought grimly. But he had no intention of taking anyone into his confidence unnecessarily. Now that he knew definitely there was a killer at large, he felt that the less said the better. He didn’t want the next person bumped off to be Jane Marple.

Interesting features of this novel:

  • Agatha Christie's observations of the changed structure of village life, and her comments on social and economic changes that have taken place;
  • Miss Marple snares the murderer, whose identity she has already realised, but needs to prove. Her "honey trap", set up with the local policeman, puts one of the other characters in great danger. Note here Miss Marple's talent at mimicry;
  • Miss Marple moves in a circle of vicarages. The Vicarage at Chipping Cleghorn is not the first one she has stayed at in these novels.
  • ex-Commissioner of Scotland Yard Sir Henry Clithering first appeared in the late 1920s and is still around, and being consulted.
  • Note the "mannish" women and the women doing men's jobs. 
  • Note also Jane Marple's own comments on her sleuthing abilities.
  • There is a romantic element
  • If Jane Marple was "old" in the late 1920s, how old is she now? It is 25 years later. She has to be in her 80s.

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