A Murder Is Announced(Redirected from A Murder is Announced)
A Murder Is Announced is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in June 1950 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in the same month. The UK edition sold for eight shillings and sixpence (8/6) and the US edition at $2.50.
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
|Publisher||Collins Crime Club|
|Pages||256 pp (first edition, hardcover)|
|Preceded by||Crooked House|
|Followed by||Three Blind Mice and Other Stories|
The novel features her detective Miss Marple and is considered a crime novel classic. The book was heavily promoted upon publication in 1950 as being Christie's fiftieth book, although in truth this figure could only be arrived at by counting in both UK and US short story collections. The storyline had previously been explored in Christie's Miss Marple short story "The Companion", where the characters also lived in Little Paddocks.
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A notice appears in the paper of Chipping Cleghorn: "A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks, at 6.30 pm. Friends accept this, the only intimation." This surprises Letitia Blacklock, owner of Little Paddocks. However, she takes it in her stride and prepares for guests that evening. The villagers are intrigued by the notice, and several of them appear with awkward reasons but definite interest. As the clock strikes 6.30 pm, the lights go out and a door swings open, revealing a man with a blinding torch.
The man demands they "Stick 'em up!" Most of the guests do so, believing it to be part of a game. The game ends when shots are fired into the room. The door slams shut, and panic takes hold. The fuses are blown, the gunman has been shot, and Miss Blacklock's ear is bleeding, from a bullet grazing her earlobe. Dora Bunner ("Bunny") recoognizes the gunman as Rudi Scherz, a foreigner who works as a receptionist at a local hotel. He had asked Letitia for money a few days ago.
The police are called. The clues suggest that this is a strange suicide or accidental death, but Inspector Craddock is not satisfied. Miss Marple is a guest at the spa hotel where Scherz was employed. Craddock is advised to involve her in the case, and the two work together. Scherz has a criminal background of petty theft and forgery. His girlfriend, a waitress at the spa, reveals that he had been paid to appear as the holdup man; he believed it was "a silly English joke". Craddock returns to Chipping Cleghorn, where Miss Marple stays with the local vicar's wife.
Establishing a motive for Scherz's attack on Miss Blacklock is difficult. She worked for the financier Randall Goedler and has done well for herself but is not wealthy. She lives simply. She may inherit a great deal of money; Randall Goedler's estate passed to his wife Belle when he died. Belle is frail and near death. When Belle dies, Miss Blacklock inherits everything. If, however, she predeceases Belle, the estate goes to the mysterious "Pip" and "Emma", children of Randall's estranged sister, Sonia.
Inspector Craddock discovers oil on the hinges of a door into the parlour, thought to be unused, and Bunny mentions that until recently there had been a table placed against the door. Craddock travels to Scotland to meet Belle; she mentions that Letitia had a beloved sister, Charlotte, who developed a goitre. Their father, a doctor, tried unsuccessfully to treat Charlotte, but she only withdrew further into herself as her goitre worsened. Their father died shortly before World War II, and Letitia gave up her job with Goedler and took her sister to Switzerland for surgery. The two sisters waited out the war in Switzerland, but before it was over, Charlotte died very suddenly. Letitia returned to England alone.
Miss Marple takes tea with Bunny, and Bunny reveals the recently oiled door she found with the Inspector. She is sure that Patrick Simmons is not as he appears. Simmons is a young cousin of Letitia, who, with his sister Julia and Phillipa Haymes, a young widow, are staying at Little Paddocks. Bunny is certain there was a different lamp in the room on the night of the murder – the one with the shepherdess, not the one there now. This tête-à-tête ends when Letitia arrives.
Letitia arranges a birthday party for Bunny, complete with almost everyone who was at the house when Scherz was killed. She asks Mitzi the cook to make her special cake, which Patrick has nicknamed "Delicious Death". As post-war austerity rationing was in effect, butter, eggs, chocolate and raisins were hard to get. A box of chocolates is also a present. Bunny eats the chocolate, which gives her a headache. She cannot find the aspirin she bought. She takes some of Letitia's aspirin, lies down for a nap, and dies.
Miss Marple visits Miss Blacklock, who mourns Bunny. Miss Marple asks to see photo albums which might contain pictures of Sonia Goedler, Pip and Emma's mother, but all photos of Sonia were taken out of the albums after the death of Rudi Scherz. Through deduction and re-enactment, Misses Hinchcliffe and Murgatroyd (two spinsters present at the time of the Scherz shooting) figure out that Miss Murgatroyd could see who was in the room when the torch shone on their faces; she could see Rudi as he was on the other side of the opened door. The two women conclude that the person who was not in the room could have left the room when the lights went out and come around behind Scherz and shot him and at Miss Blacklock.
Just as Miss Murgatroyd remembers the one person not in the room, the phone rings. As Miss Hinchcliffe drives away, Murgatroyd runs into the driveway, shouting "She wasn't there!". Miss Hinchcliffe meets Miss Marple. They discover Murgatroyd's body, and the distraught Hinchcliffe informs Miss Marple of Murgatroyd's cryptic statement.
The fuses to blow at the vicarage, and the final clue falls into place for Miss Marple. Inspector Craddock gathers everyone at Little Paddocks. The inspector quickly insinuates that Edmund Swettenham who, with his widowed mother, was also present at the shooting, is in fact Pip. However, Phillipa comes forward and confesses she is Pip. Craddock accuses Edmund of wanting to marry a rich wife in Phillipa by murdering Letitia. Edmund denies this and as a scream is heard from the kitchen.
In the kitchen, they find Miss Blacklock attempting to drown Mitzi in the sink. Miss Blacklock is arrested by a local constable who has been hiding in the kitchen with Miss Marple. Miss Marple imitates Dora Bunner's voice to make Miss Blacklock break down. Miss Marple explains it quite simply: it was not Charlotte who died in Switzerland, but Letitia. Charlotte, aware that Letitia was in line to inherit a fortune, posed as Letitia and returned to England, Few people knew Charlotte. She needed to avoid people who knew Letitia well, such as Belle Goedler, and to cover her throat with strings of pearls or beads to hide the scars from her goitre surgery. Scherz could have exposed her. He worked at the Swiss hospital where Charlotte had been treated and could identify her. This is why Letitia/Charlotte hired him to come to Chipping Cleghorn so she could kill him.
Bunny knew too much. Bunny had an eye for detail, but was prone to slip-ups. On several occasions, she referred to Miss Blacklock as "Lotty" (short for "Charlotte") instead of "Letty" (short for "Letitia"), and her conversation with Miss Marple in the cafe proved fatal. Amy Murgatroyd, the final victim, was also killed for realising that Letitia/Charlotte was the one person whose face was not illuminated by Rudi Scherz's torch. The strongly built Hinchcliffe is physically restrained from doing harm to Letitia/Charlotte.
Miss Marple persuaded Mitzi and Edmund to play parts in tripping up Charlotte Blacklock; Miss Marple's plans were almost brought down when Phillipa admitted to being Pip, but Inspector Craddock managed to keep up the act and claim Edmund was after Phillipa's money. Ultimately, Phillipa/Pip and Julia/Emma inherit the Goedler fortune; Edmund and Phillipa get married and return to Chipping Cleghorn to live.
- Miss Jane Marple
- Inspector Dermot Eric Craddock
- Letitia Blacklock, lady of the house, in her 60s (also the main character)
- Dora Bunner, her elderly fluttery childhood friend, usually known by her nickname, "Bunny"
- Patrick and Julia Simmons, Miss Blacklock's spoiled and foolish young cousins (who call her "Aunt" due to the difference in ages)
- Mitzi, Miss Blacklock's foreign housekeeper and cook, a young refugee
- Phillipa Haymes, a young widowed paying guest/gardener with a young son at boarding school
- Colonel Archie Easterbrook, blustery old colonel just returned from India
- Laura Easterbrook, his considerably younger, glamorous wife
- Mrs Swettenham, elderly lady who dotes on her son, Edmund
- Edmund Swettenham, cynical young writer
- Miss Hinchcliffe, physically fit, tough lady farmer
- Miss Amy Murgatroyd, Miss Hinchcliffe's sweet-dispositioned, giggly companion
- Belle Goedler, dying widow of Letitia's former wealthy employer
- Julian Harmon, the vicar
- Diana "Bunch" Harmon, the vicar's wife
- Tiglath Pileser, the vicarage cat
- Rudi Scherz, a young man of Swiss extraction, the receptionist at a local spa
- Myrna Harris, girlfriend of the latter, waitress at local spa
- Chief Constable George Rydesdale, Craddock's superior
- Detective Sergeant Fletcher, assisting Craddock
- Constable Legg
- Sir Henry Clithering, retired commissioner of Scotland Yard, old friend of Miss Marple
References to other worksEdit
Edmund Swettenham announces to have written "a roaring farce in three acts" titled Elephants Do Forget. Agatha Christie later wrote a novel named Elephants Can Remember featuring Hercule Poirot. "Scherz" was the name of the Swiss publisher (Scherz Verlag) that published Five Little Pigs in 1944 in German.
Literary significance and receptionEdit
After five years of not reviewing any of Christie's detective novels, Julian MacLaren-Ross in The Times Literary Supplement was lavish in his praise of the book in the issue dated 23 June 1950: "A new novel by Mrs Agatha Christie always deserves to be placed at the head of any list of detective fiction and her fiftieth book, A Murder is Announced, establishes firmly her claim to the throne of detection. The plot is as ingenious as ever, the writing more careful, the dialogue both wise and witty; while suspense is engendered from the very start, and maintained skilfully until the final revelation: it will be a clever reader indeed who anticipates this, and though Miss Christie is as usual scrupulously fair in scattering her clues, close attention to the text is necessary if a correct solution of the mystery is to be arrived at before the astute Miss Marple unmasks the culprit." The review concluded, "Miss Christie has several surprises up her sleeve besides the main one, and (this much may be said without spoiling the reader’s pleasure) she once again breaks new ground by creating a weak and kindly murderer who is yet responsible for the deaths of three people: that such a character should, in the last analysis, seem credible, is a tribute to the author’s psychological acumen and originality of concept."
Maurice Richardson, in the 4 June 1950 issue of The Observer said, "For her fiftieth book she has chosen a snug, residential village setting with her favourite detective, silver-haired, needle-sharp spinster, Miss Marple, making a delayed appearance. Not quite one of her top notchers, but very smooth entertainment. The Prime Minister (Clement Attlee), who is her fervent admirer, might fittingly celebrate this jubilee by making her a Dame." (It took until 1971 for Christie to be awarded the DBE).
An unnamed reviewer in the Toronto Daily Star of 30 September 1950 opined that "A Murder is Announced displays all the adroit and well-bred legerdemain one has come to expect from Agatha Christie... This jubilee whodunit is as deft and ingenious a fabrication as Agatha Christie has contrived in many a year."
Robert Barnard: "Superb reworking of the standard Christie setting and procedures, marred only by an excess of homicide at the end. The book is distantly related to "The Companion", in The Thirteen Problems."
In the "Binge!" article of Entertainment Weekly Issue #1343–44 (26 December 2014 – 3 January 2015), the writers picked A Murder Is Announced as an "EW favorite" on the list of the "Nine Great Christie Novels".
Film, TV, theatrical adaptationsEdit
Leslie Darbon adapted the novel into a stage play in 1977. It was first presented at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, by Peter Saunders – who brought Christie's The Mousetrap to the stage – and then on 21 September 1977 at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, which he then owned. The play first toured Australia in 2013 with Judi Farr as Miss Marple, Robert Grubb as Inspector Craddock, Libby Munro as Phillipa Haymes, directed by Darren Yap.
The novel was adapted by Alan Plater and filmed in 1985 with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple and Ursula Howells as Miss Blacklock, directed by David Giles for the BBC series Miss Marple. Only a few changes were made: Mitzi was renamed Hannah and is said to be Swiss (in the book, her nationality is unknown) and in the novel the vicarage cat was male and called Tiglath Pileser. In the film the cat was female and called Delilah.
In 2005, it was part of the first season of the ITV series Agatha Christie's Marple which featured Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple, Zoë Wanamaker as Letitia Blacklock, Keeley Hawes as Phillipa Haymes, Elaine Paige as Dora Bunner, Cherie Lunghi as Sadie Swettenham, and Catherine Tate as Mitzi. While the basic plot is retained from the novel, most of the characters in this adaptation have been heavily altered.
- 1950, Collins Crime Club (London), June 1950, Hardcover, 256 pp
- 1950, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), June 1950, Hardcover, 248 pp
- 1951, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, 229 pp
- 1953, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 191 pp
- 1958, Pan Books, Paperback, 204 pp (Great Pan 144)
- 1965, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 246 pp
- 1967, Greenway edition of collected works (William Collins), Hardcover, 288 pp
- 1967, Greenway edition of collected works (Dodd Mead), Hardcover, 288 pp
- 2005, Marple Facsimile edition (Facsimile of 1950 UK first edition), 7 November 2005, Hardcover ISBN 0-00-720846-4
The novel was serialised in eleven parts in the Daily Express from Tuesday, 28 February to Saturday, 11 March 1950. Five instalments carried an illustration by long-term Express artist Andrew Robb. This version did not contain any chapter divisions and contained only about half of the text that appeared in the book publication, totally omitting chapters five, six, seven, fourteen and the epilogue. It had been planned for this serialisation to take place closer to the eventual book publication in June 1950 but it was pulled forward by Christie’s literary agent Edmund Cork in an effort to boost interest at the ailing box office for the play Murder at the Vicarage.
In the US, the first publication was in the Chicago Tribune in forty-nine parts from Monday, 17 April to Monday, 12 June 1950.
- Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (p. 15)
- John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction – the collector's guide: Second Edition (pp. 82, 87) Scholar Press. 1994; ISBN 0-85967-991-8
- American Tribute to Agatha Christie
- The Times Literary Supplement, 23 June 1950 (p. 385)
- The Observer, 4 June 1950 (p. 8)
- The Guardian, 9 June 1950 (p. 4)
- Toronto Daily Star, 30 September 1950 (p. 16)
- Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – rev. ed. (p. 198). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0-00-637474-3
- "Binge! Agatha Christie: Nine Great Christie Novels". Entertainment Weekly (1343–44): 32–33. 26 December 2014.
- A Murder Is Announced (1956) on IMDb
- Christie, Agatha (1977). A Murder is Announced. adapted for the stage by Leslie Darbon. ISBN 978-0573112959.
- About A Murder is Announced Archived 10 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
- Agata Christie's Miss Marple: A Murder Is Announced (1985) on IMDb
- Marple: A Murder Is Announced (2005) on IMDb
- Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers – Colindale). Shelfmark: NPL LON LD3 and NPL LON MLD3.
- Morgan, Janet. Agatha Christie, A Biography (p. 285). Collins, 1984; ISBN 0-00-216330-6