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A Murder is Announced
on 31 March 2017
Published in 1950, this is one of my favourite Miss Marple mysteries. It is set in the small village of Chipping Cleghorn, which is not unlike St Mary Mead, with its cast of local characters and, of course, a local newspaper – which is delivered every Friday. On Friday, October 29th, the paper is perused by the villagers, who discover an odd message in the Personal column: “A Murder is Announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th at Little Paddocks at 6:30pm. Friends please accept this the only intimation.”
Of course, Miss Letitia Blacklock, of Little Paddocks, who lives with her old friend, Dora Bunner, young cousins Patrick and Julia, war widow Philippa Haymes and a volatile European refugee cook, named Mitzi, has no choice but to act as hostess to the gathering of local villagers who ‘drop by’ to see what will happen. What actually does happen is murder, when a young man holds up the room at the appointed time, and the stage is set for a wonderfully convoluted plot, involving the will of a wealthy financial, a great cast of possible suspects and some romance.
The crime is investigated by Detective Inspector Dermot Craddock, who turns out to be the godson of Sir Henry Clithering, the ex-commissioner of Scotland Yard, who is a great believer in the powers of Miss Marple. When she turns out to be staying at the very hotel where the young man, who incongruously appeared at Little Paddocks, worked. By chance, she knows Bunch Harmon, one of the locals who turned up at Miss Blacklock’s, so she immediately re-locates to Chipping Cleghorn, in order to aid the investigation.
One of the most notable things about this mystery is not only the classic Christie setting, and characters, but the fact that the author makes much use of the changing world after WWII. Whereas before, Miss Marple bemoans, you knew who everybody was and where they came from, now people are displaced, move away and you take them at face value. With people bringing back guns from their time in the army as souvenirs, not locking doors and allowing neighbours access to their homes and having to accept people are who they say they are, this allows Christie freedom to really enjoy herself with red herrings, identities and clues. A thoroughly enjoyable mystery, with Miss Marple highly involved in the action.