Suppose you had been living in the small English village of Chipping Cleghorn, reading the weekly newspaper, delivered to your door each Friday filled with all kinds of announcements and offers in the "PERSONAL" column. And suppose this item had caught your attention:
"A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6:30 p.m. Friends, please accept this, the only intimation."
What would your reaction be to seeing that announcement in your newspaper? Well, for most of the residents of Chipping Cleghorn, it prompted them to find good (or at least acceptable) reasons to be at the house known as Little Paddocks by 6:30 p.m. that Friday. And what happened next may be found in A Murder Is Announced, by Agatha Christie, first published in 1950 and featuring Miss Jane Marple. A Murder is Announced is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast, and you can listen to the entire review by clicking here.
There are more than enough people present at Little Paddocks at the pre-announced time. As for what happens then, when the lights suddenly go out - well, let's just say that there is a fair amount of confusion, with different witnesses providing different versions of events. In any case, police certainly were glad that Miss Jane Marple was visiting people in Chipping Cleghorn - for it is very difficult indeed to put anything over on Miss Marple.
Written shortly after World War II, A Murder is Announced also looks at the way English village life had changed, as a result of the war. Miss Marple, knows that Chipping Cleghorn is very much like her own small town of St. Mary Mead – and the changes that she notes in village life, and the ways in which newcomers are accepted – or not accepted – will have a role to play in this story as well.
A Murder is Announced was the fourth of a dozen novels Christie wrote featuring Miss Marple, and I think it's one of the best. As usual, the author provides liberal doses of clues – most of them very carefully disguised, but all there for the finding. Having just finished reading the book, I checked back on several critical points and found where those clues had been given to me. I can’t complain of unfairness. A Murder is Announced is very highly recommended.