on May 5, 2008
What "improvements" have been made for the Black Dog & Leventhal edition? There are already major differences in punctuation, word choices, and scene breaks between the original Collins and Dodd Mead editions of this novel. There are further differences between the Dodd Mead editions republished by Random House/Avenel and the Dodd Mead editions republished by Simon & Shuster/Pocket. There are further additions still in the Signet, Bantam, and Berkley editions. For every publishing house putting out her works, there seem to be a new batch of editors altering Agatha Christie's words and the sound of her voice. What's the matter with these publishers? Whose voice do they think we want to hear when we sit down to a novel by Agatha Christie? And what will she sound like twenty years from now? It's frightening that her estate has failed to see the importance of guarding her words as she wrote them. Please tell me I'm not the only one here who senses that a crime has been committed.
on March 26, 2004
Like with "The Moving Finger," this is a Christie mystery I read maybe 5 years ago and then picked up again just recently. And, similar to that one, I somewhat remembered the solution to this mystery, though I couldn't remember nor ever quite reconfigure the logic behind it.
For those who don't know, this excellent mystery starts off with a murder being announced in the personal ads in the local village paper. Somewhat akin to the irony of "Gross Pointe Blank" - where nobody believes that Cusack is a hitman because he states it directly - no one believes that a murder will really happen. Who would advertise such a thing? And so, in a predictable English manner, all the neighbors turn up - each insisting they just happened to drop by.
Thus begins a subtly humorous and mind-bending tale. After reading a number of poor books lately, I have to say that it felt good to be back in Agatha's capable hands. She develops a small pool of likable characters that you can keep track of...and never really trust. She throws out red herrings galore and keeps you on your toes as you try to fit together the random jig saw piece clues handed to you. Of course, Miss Marple is on to things fairly early, but will you be?
Of note in this particular Christie mystery:
- In addition to Miss Marple, Christie develops a likable & capable if slightly lackluster inspector in Craddock. I think it shows Christie's continued desire to mix things up and try new crime-solving combinations
- The time period is right after WWII, and so you pick up on what life was like in Britain in that time period. There is reference to food rations, Mittel European servants, reduced amounts of hired help, shifting of the population (even in small towns), an increased amount of suspicion with foreigners, etc. It's all very interesting.
- This is one of the few murder mysteries I remember with a real lack of rich/titles characters. There are a few in the background, but they don't play in the main plot at all. It was quite nice to read about working folks and their lives.
- Christie sets up several foils with the number of middle aged women in the book. I've never read a British novel where 3 main characters were weak minded (Bunch, Murgatroyd, and Dora), but Christie is able to develop each with distinction. However, each woman's relation with a strong woman (Marple, Hinch and Blacky) makes for an interesting study. (BTW - It is unclear if Murgatroyd and Hinch are a gay couple. Certainly, it seems possible, but Christie doesn't focus on that.)
on May 12, 2007
A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED was published for the first time in 1950. It was adapted for the stage in 1977 by Leslie Darbon :Agatha Christie's "A Murder is Announced" (Adapted for the Stage).
I can't but recommend this book that presents one of the most inventive mysteries ever concocted by Agatha Christie. For once, if you're very careful, it's possible to find the murderer before the last ten pages of the novel because all the clues are given by the smart Lady of the Crime. As always in Agatha Christie novels, light notes about the English social and political climate spreaded all along the chapters allow us to better imagine the everyday life in an English little town some five years after the end of WWII.
A book for your library.
This was the third book of Agatha Christie's that I read, and the one that cemented my opinion of her as an utterly ingenious storyteller. "A Murder is Announced" is a book that I can come back to again and again, noticing something different each time, and marveling at the amount of foreshadowing and carefully-placed clues that have been strewn throughout the narrative, so obvious in hindsight, yet so carefully woven into the story that it takes a keen eye to pick up on them.
The residents of Chipping Cleghorn are astonished at an advertisement placed in their local paper, claiming that a murder is to take place in the home of Miss Letitia Blacklock that night. Even more strangely, Miss Blacklock is as baffled at the appearance of the announcement as the rest of them. The other residents of the house (a childhood friend, two distant relatives, a refugee and a somewhat mysterious boarder) all claim innocence, and so it is a rather bemused gathered in the drawing room once her neighbours converge on Little Paddocks for what they assume is a murder-mystery party. As the clock chimes the half-hour, the lights go out, and gun-shots are fired. When the confusion passes, someone is dead.
Luckily the elderly Miss Marple is staying with a friend in the village, and offers her services to the police to help gather some more information about the people involved. What with the authorities having come to the shaky conclusion that the events of the night in question were some kind of botched burglary, the spinster-sleuth decides to do some of her specialized snooping. That is, she socializes with those involved, and draws parallels between the impression she has of them with the residents in her own village in an attempt to understand character, background and possible motivation.
The amount of detail used in building the mystery is wonderfully complex, particularly in the dialogue: the second time around, I could pick up on the fact that several characters are saying completely different things to what we assume they are the first time. In hindsight, there are several early details that practically scream the solution at you, and even what first appears to be a typo is a clue! If you're sharp enough, you can certainly deduce who the killer is; as Christie lays out all the information...but then proceeds to baffle you with it.
The general time-period of the story is informative without being obtrusive. Set in the years directly after WWII, we get the sense of a society still trying to find its footing after great turmoil, and coping with drastic changes in the world. Along with mention of ration books and identity cards, displaced refugees from Eastern Europe, the decrease in hired servants, illegal bartering system among neighbours, housing development and distrust of foreigners, there is a prevailing sense of uncertainty and hardship as communities try to rebuild their understanding of the world. One feature of the postwar world in particular has an important bearing on the mystery: the upheavals in population settlement, in which old families died out or moved on, resulting in previously close-knit village residents suddenly becoming strangers to one another.
There was one thing though that seemed to go unresolved; when the police are discussing the case, one of them opens a file and says: "Here's a little something we've dug up on Mrs Easterbrook." We never do find out what this something is, unless I missed something obvious. Can anyone enlighten me?
At the time of its publication, "A Murder is Announced" was heavily advertised as her fiftieth story; a somewhat dubious claim, but one that gives this particular mystery an added bit of renown. As one of Christie's best and rewarding mysteries (yeah, I know I probably say that about all of them) my advice is to read carefully, as everything means something.
on March 7, 2009
Although this is a great book--if you like Agatha Christie for fun, pastime reading--this edition infuriated me. The book's copyeditors made a serious mistake which ruined the mystery for me. [THE REST OF THIS PARAGPAPH EDITED OUT BY DANIEL MACKLER.]
When, at the end of the book, I discovered the importance of [EDITED OUT BY DANIEL MACKLER] I felt cheated!!!
This goes to show you how important copyeditors can be. Granted, not the most glamorous job, but if they do it wrong...erg!!!
Oh...the edition I read: Paperback with a purple cover, Pocket Books (Simon and Schuster)--though it doesn't say the year. The cover art is copyrighted 1987, and it looks like the book is the 31st edition (??). Definitely avoid this one!!
on December 5, 2001
In A Murder is Announced, Agatha Christie's fiftieth detective story, and surely the best of the Miss Marples, "the latest idea is to advertise one's murders beforehand", by placing an advertisement in the paper-hence the title. And so, "once more a murder is announced-for the benefit and enjoyment of Miss Marple."
The setting is Chipping Cleghorn, which is perhaps Christie's best-drawn village setting-and certainly the quintessential Miss Marple novel. Christie vividly captures the feeling of how "the world has changed since the war... Fifteen years ago one knew who everybody was... If anybody new-really new-really a stranger-came, well, they stuck out-everybody wondered about them and didn't rest till they found out. 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... And people just come-and all you know about them is what they say of themselves... Nobody knows any more who anyone is." It is this feeling of insecurity Christie admirably captures that allows the ingenious plot-quite simply one of her best-to take place. Despite the beauty of the village, however, the simple rural cosiness, "there was a nightmarish feeling at the back of [Detective Inspector Craddock's] mind. It was like a familiar dream where an undertone of menace grows and finally turns Ease into Terror..." Neighbour cannot trust neighbour, and the tension slowly mounts-no atmospherics here, simply first-rate characterisation, with Christie particularly good at depicting elderly spinsters, with a sympathetic treatment of lesbianism and of old age.
Miss Marple's statement that "one is alone when the last one who remembers is gone. I have nephews and nieces and kind friends-but there's no one who knew me as a young girl-no one who belongs to the old days. I've been alone for quite a long time now" captures the whole feeling of the book-elderly spinsters living in solitude in the country, dependent upon each other for their comfort. At the heart of the novel are five old women: Miss Marple, the detective, "the finest detective God ever made. Natural genius cultivated in a suitable soil..."; Miss Blacklock and Miss Bunner; and Miss Hinchcliffe and Miss Murgatroyd. Miss Blacklock and Miss Hinchcliffe are the dominant partners, shrewd and capable; while Miss Bunner and Miss Murgatroyd are woolly-minded and amiable, dependent upon their stronger-minded friends for security. Yet when Miss Bunner and Miss Murgatroyd are both murdered, the true depths of the feelings-of the dependency-Miss Blacklock and Miss Hinchcliffe felt is made apparent. These portraits of love and grief are unrivalled anywhere else in Christie's books, and show her ability to create human characters.
Miss Marple herself is at the top of her powers, actively detecting. Sir Henry Clithering remarks that "an elderly unmarried woman who knits and gardens is streets ahead of any detective sergeant. She can tell you what might have happened and what ought to have happened and even what actually did happen! And she can tell you why it happened!" Although she deprecates her abilities, modestly claiming that she has "no gifts at all-except perhaps a certain knowledge of human nature", her ability to reason from both material clues and dialogue is seen at its best; and she is an active player for once, reasoning and sleuthing like the best of them.
Setting and characterisation aside, the plot itself is one of Christie's best. It is complicated, "all so complex, nearly all so trivial and if one thing isn't trivial, it's so hard to spot which one-like a needle in a haystack", but not cluttered-one of Christie's gifts. The motive, stated quite clearly from the beginning, is money, and Miss Marple "know[s] only too well the really terrible things that people will do to lay their hands on a lot of money." Yet the identity of the real beneficiary / murderer is so well-hidden, aided by "the most amazing impersonation", that the reader will never work out the meaning of the clues, despite Miss Marple's listing them.
"You could get away with a great deal if you had enough audacity", Miss Marple reflects at one point-and both murderess and author do have enough audacity.
This was my first Miss Marple mystery but by no means my first Christie book. I have enjoyed the different way in which the sharp mind worked over Hercule Poirot's genius but truth be told, Miss Marple as good as she was didn't appear in the book too often. This was also the time I figured out who the murderer was, more likely because I have read a lot of Agatha and knew her to be a trickster when it came to fooling the reader but also partially due to clues given out fairly this time. The final answer made total sense and there were a few things that were twisted and few truths were new to me but overall it all came together , so those who pay attention can figure it out.
Murder is announced - in deed it is, in a local Gazette that everyone reads in Chipping Cleghorn. When everyone assumes it's some sort of a party they get a huge surprise that a murder does take place and one of the attendees is somehow responsible. I will not give anything else away but the story has a great setting and there are tons of clues. I felt like a grand detective reading all the accounts and enjoyed the old-fashioned talk and mannerisms. The house of Letitia Blacklock has been violated and her closest friends, neighbors and family members are the only ones who could have dipped their fingers in the dark pool of death. Miss Marple enters the book and shines some light on interesting family relations and past that wants to be forgotten with a few unlucky turns for some of the members of the party. When more deaths happen the police know they must act quickly or there won't be anyone left.
The only problem I had with the book was the amount of characters; my head was spinning and I was dizzy trying to gather them all up in my mind. The names were also similar and long some making me a bit batty but overall I enjoyed the book and loved the cozy setting marred with chilling death hiding in the dark corridors of the Blacklock house. I do recommend this but it left me with a bit of a headache at the end and I was anticipating the ending to finally come and bring my brain some relief. Murder is nasty business and Christie knew how to work it to her advantage.
- Kasia S.
on October 3, 2010
This book started out wonderfully -- the announcement of a murder is placed in the ads of the local paper in a small English village, identifying the house and the time but nothing more. The residents of the village, all thinking it's an invitation to a murder mystery party, invent various excuses to show up at the stated house at the specified time. The residents of the house read the ad as well but no one will admit to having placed it. So the master of the house -- an older, single woman -- says they'd better be ready for company.
But then there's a real murder, and suddenly all of the eccentric villagers are left looking at each other and wondering who was responsible.
I've read two other Agatha Christie books prior to this (one with Hercule Perot, the other without one of the author's 'regular' sleuths) and this one started out much better than the others. The characters were more distinct, the situation more interesting, and the reactions of the characters more believable.
Unfortunately, the book proves to be a letdown. Miss Marple seems sort of "tacked on" to the story rather than being part of it. The plot relies on too many coincidences (e.g. a cat doing something that shows Miss Marple exactly how the murderer managed something, characters with mysterious but interlinked pasts showing up at the same time with the same motives without knowing of each other, the culprit being at exactly the right place at the exactly the right time to overhear things multiple times) for my tastes.
Worst of all, the resolution just doesn't feel right. The murderer is caught out in a ridiculously elaborate scheme, and when you hear their motives from Miss Marple and Inspector Craddock, is just doesn't seem believable. *This* character, with *that* background, was capable of conceiving and carrying out a murder and then committing multiple more crimes to try to cover their tracks? Even the motive for the initial murder just doesn't ring true -- there are multiple ways the culprit could have dealt with their problem that would have been far less risky than committing a murder.
A pity, as the book had started out so well.
on February 10, 2015
Agatha Christie does an excellent job in this book of making the guilty party seem like the one person whom could never be suspected. She weaves an engrossing tale with intriguing characters, and an interesting view of life in post ward England. This is at least my second (maybe third) reading of this book - this time was for a book club. And I've enjoyed it every time. I enjoyed it very much, even knowing who the guilty party was.
on May 28, 2016
A notice appears in the small town weekly. A murder is announced at 6:30 tonight at a local home. This is your invitation. Several town residents arrive speculating it is a whodunit parlor game and oh don't young people do odd things. The owner of the house realizes that people will show up so sets up some drinks and prepares. At the appointed time, the lights go out, then a man arrives shining a flash light about and telling them its a robbery. Then a gun goes off. When the lights get sorted out, the man is dead and the owner of the house is shot in the ear. Miss Marple knows the young hold up man because she is staying at the hotel he worked at. SHe also knows the vicar's wife and so goes to poke around a bit. Did start to suspect the motive, but not the hidden identities of quite everyone.