It’s becoming something of a tradition that I read at least one Agatha Christie book each month. Not only are they super easy to get through but they just make me feel happy. Considering what the past 12 months have been like, we all need to dedicate more time to the things that make us happy. Christie is not only a fantastic writer but she has an incredibly wicked streak. As I say every time I review one of her books, she understands people and what might compel them to commit murder. In my recent rereadings of her novels, I haven’t actually read any Miss Marple stories yet. I think in terms of the books, I prefer a lot of the Poirot novels but who can’t love Miss Marple. I also think the ITV adaptations of these novels were fabulous. They made a few changes and modernisations but they capture the spirit perfectly. The adaptation of this novel is definitely one of the better ones.
In 1972, Agatha Christie compiled a list of her 10 current favourite novels from her oeuvre. Though she admitted that her opinion changed constantly, the list included some of her most popular books. A Murder is Announced made her top 10 at the time with Christie claiming that she found all of the characters interesting to write. Considering how great she is at writing complex and realistic characters, this certainly had to be saying something. One of the things that set Christie apart from other crime writers is her ability to turn even the least likely people into cold-blooded killers and making it seem credible. You never finish one of her novels without truly believing that the person in question could have carried out those awful deeds. The fact that they are unlikely is what makes so many of her novels so hard to figure out.
The plot of A Murder is Announced is definitely a delicious one. A mysterious announcement appears in the local paper which broadcasts that a murder will take place at Little Paddocks that Friday at 6:30 pm. The only problem is, nobody at Little Paddocks has any idea who wrote the note and what it means. Still, on Friday, the rest of the village turns up at the house to find out what’s going on. As the clock strikes, the lights go out and a man appears at the door asking everyone to “stick ’em up!” It’s not long before shots are fired and the mysterious figure is found dead having accidentally shot himself. But did he? When more bodies start turning up, it becomes clear that this wasn’t a robbery gone wrong but something more sinister. Thankfully, Miss Marple is on hand to help the police find their way to the truth.
Though she is a great writer, Agatha Christie often has an issue with pacing. In a few of her novels, she spends a bit too long in establishing the story and then wastes time in getting to the final reveal. However, I think A Murder is Announced is well-paced. There is just enough of a wait at the beginning and there is plenty to keep you occupied as time goes on. It’s an entertaining and engaging novel. There is quite a bit to digest in terms of context and backstory but, for the most part, everything comes together nicely. I think there are definitely some memorable characters within this novel and you can see why Christie thought it was so interesting to write.
There is a lot of great social commentary here and you can see how well Christie makes use of the post-war era. She brings up the change in attitude that came in that period and how many opportunities it opened up for mischief. Christie was a very shrewd woman and has a good grasp of psychology. The motivations and relationships portrayed in A Murder is Announced are so understandable. There are also plenty of characters for you to fall in love with. Yes, there are enough suspicious and mysterious ones to keep you guessing but the residents of Chipping Cleghorn are an eclectic mix of personalities that you’ll enjoy spending time with.
The reveal is a pretty good one but not up there with her most famous. As with all of her novels, there are plenty of secrets to uncover along the way and Christie’s red herrings do a decent job of keeping you off the scent. This is one of those novels that hides clues in plain sight and there are moments when Christie is blatantly obvious about the truth. Yet, you willfully go along with it most of the time. I’m not saying it’s impossible to guess but, if you go in with an open mind, you could easily miss the signs. Although, I don’t think it matters either way. Reading this again didn’t mar my enjoyment. There is still so much in the writing that makes Christie’s novels so enjoyable time after time.