Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Murder is Announced: Agatha Christie

This is the fourth Jane Marple mystery novel and my fourth read in that series in the last few years. The story is set in the small English village of Chipping Cleghorn. A murder announcement is placed into the Personals section of local newspaper and everyone assumes it is a clever invitation to a murder party. However, the group that gathers witnesses a real murder. Miss Marple is called in to help with the investigation.

Having only read four of the Jane Marple books, I cannot point out a definitive favorite, but many fans of Agatha Christie's books have selected it as their favorite. And for now I would place it as tied with The Moving Finger for my favorite.

This is a very clever story, and had me fooled for most of the book. Close to the end I began to suspect who the culprit was but I was still surprised and never guessed the why, the motive.

But, beyond the fact that this is a good mystery, there are several specifics I liked.

The introduction of all the characters, of which there are many, at the beginning of the story. As the morning newspaper arrives at each household in the village, the inhabitants read the announcement and discuss it. Thus we get an overview of each of the households. And throughout the book, the characterizations of both primary and secondary characters is very well done. Where the idea came from that Agatha Christie's books were peopled by cardboard characters, I don't know.

This novel also provided a very good picture of England, and particularly English villages, after World War II. Published in 1950, it was written when the deprivations following the war were still in effect. It was hard to get specific foods, everyone was wary of "foreigners" and it was more usual to have strangers in the area.

Also see reviews at these blogs: A Little Reading, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, FictionFan's Book Reviews, Past Offences, and Clothes in Books.


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Publisher:  Pocket Books, 1970. Orig. pub. 1950.
Length:     197 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Miss Marple, #4
Setting:     Small village, UK.
Genre:      Mystery
Source:     Purchased at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, 2007.




21 comments:

  1. This is one of my favorite Miss Marple stories. And it lends itself well to TV adaptations because of the number of characters. So which Miss Marple will you read next? Just curious. LOL

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    1. Next will be Murder with Mirrors,Kay. Trying to read in order if possible, although mostly it does not matter. I plan to get some of the Joan Hickson adaptations to watch. I don't think I have ever watched an adaptation of a Miss Marple story.

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  2. I like the way the characters are introduced, too, Tracy. And Christie did such a good job of misdirecting here, while still 'playing fair.' That's not easy to do. I'm glad you enjoyed this one.

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    1. This book had all the features I like, Margot. A great read.

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  3. Definitely one of Christie's that I am planning on re-reading. Got as far as making a re-reading list. Just need to get around to the actual reading ... lol Always the hardest bit. Thanks for this timely reminder. June might be the month where I get cracking with my list.

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    1. My rereading project is Margery Allingham. I just finished Traitor's Purse. I am always rereading Rex Stout so that doesn't count.

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  4. Great characters - Hinchcliffe and Murgatroyd, Mitzi, the playwright Edward, the young students... The TV version with Joan Hickson, Joan Sims and Paola Donisotti is brilliant. Also non-cardboard and non-cosy is the way everyone adapts to the lean years after the war: cleaning their own gutters, swapping honey for eggs, delaying firing up the central heating, saving food to make a cake...

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    1. I had entirely forgotten about Murgatroyd, Lucy. There was another character with that name in Death in the Stocks by Heyer, and that was a good character too. I am looking forward to the TV adaptation with Joan Hickson.

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  5. I really like this one, and agree with you that the way the characters are all introduced is brilliant. And it is a large cast, but they are distinct and memorable. Definitely a good one.

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    1. I am growing to like the Christie books more and more as I continue reading them, Moira. Sometimes I feel lost when there are so many characters but these are all charming and interesting people and I could not imagine who could be the villain.

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  6. Yes, one of Christie's best, Tracy. Probably my favorite Jane Marple book too. And the dramatization done by = I think, the BBC - in the 80's with Joan Hickson is brilliant. Follows the book without any stupid deviations or 'modernization.' I also agree that anyone who thinks that Christie's books feature cardboard characters simply doesn't know what they're talking about. More than likely has never read much Christie - it's easy to sneer from ignorance.

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  7. P.S. In this particular book, Christie gives the game away early on in the story but she was so expert at sleight of hand that it isn't until after it's all over that you realize. But for a keen reader, the killer is made obvious early on.

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    1. Christie certainly fooled me, Yvette. And almost always does. I do remember noting some inconsistencies early on but the misdirection was so well done. Great characters and a good story, I liked it all.

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  8. I've not yet read a Jane Marple novel (same as with Wentworth's Miss Silver series) and am beginning to think maybe I'm a closet chauvinist pig of some kind. I must examine this disinclination to read novels featuring Jessica Fletcher-type protagonists (altho I never missed a Murder She Wrote episode when I had a TV). It strikes me as odd when I made it clear in the FFB community that I like both Wentworth's and Christie's work starring male detectives. Perhaps Basil Willing can show me where the block might be.

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    1. It is hard to explain the appeal of Jane Marple and Miss Silver, Mathew. The Agatha Christie books are definitely not as cozy as people think they are -- not cozy at all. And they have a lot of depth. I enjoy the Miss Silver books just as much, but for different reasons, and they do always feature a romance of some type.

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    2. I've no doubt of that, Tracy. I'm sure my reluctance comes from some irrational reflex conditioned in my misunderstanding yout'. I'm working on correcting the problem! ;)

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    3. I put off getting back to reading Agatha Christie and Patricia Wentworth for many years because I had a prejudice against cozy, puzzle mysteries. And they are not for everyone. Now I just enjoy a mix of a lot of different types of mysteries.

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  9. Sounds good, but I'll stick to what few I have and hope to read some from Agatha one day!

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    1. Yes, definitely try one of Christie's books someday, Col. You have plenty of time.

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  10. Yes, one of the best Christies, I think. Very clever and such an intriguing beginning.

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    1. I am almost getting to where I have read enough of Christie's book to be able to name some favorites, Christine. but I have plenty more to read and that is good to.

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