June's Book of the Month: A Murder is Announced

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  • There are 2 things in A Murder Is Announced that I love:

    (1) I love the uniqueness of the opening half of the story. You have this ad in the paper inviting those in the village to be a part of a game of murder--it's just as unique as the opening of The Body In The Library.

    (2) And of course I love how the cake is called "Delicious Death", called by Patrick


    “People in the dark are quite different, aren’t they?”  ― A Murder Is Announced 
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
     What I like best about this novel, is the way that clues are woven in. I've just had another glance, and there is SPOILER ALERT           moment when Craddock tells Bunch and Miss Marple that Miss Blacklock has said that Sonia was small and dark. Miss Marple replies:

    'Really," "that's very interesting."  

    I think she knew, or surmised somehow, that Sonia had been fair, and is saying that it is very interesting that that Miss Blacklock has been lying about what her appearance was. I remember in The Moving Finger that Miss Marple says "That is the most interesting thing I have heard." (or words to effect) when told SPOILER ALERT that the governess has not received a poison pen letter. When she say something is interesting she is registering suspicions. I think that, like Poirot, she has hunches, and works backwards to try to supply the evidence to support these.

    The characters are magnificent in this the book of the month. Rudy's character which SPOILER ALERT would make him an  unlikely murderer and which have made him a poor crook. Bunny, the Blacklock sisters, the twins. All very carefully drawn. It is a pleasure to re-read to savour the small details of description and to admire a great detective writer's craft.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom ✭✭✭✭✭
    Did the have Old age Pension in those days? surely if SOILER ALERT the Murderer has claimed it under her sisters name as that is the name everyone knows her then surely at the start of the book she has already committed Fraud as well as claiming someone else's identity.
  • Right, Tommy. But I don't think they did - otherwise Bunny wouldn't have been in such dire straits when she writes to "Letitia".
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    Hi Taliavishay-arbel - what if it was a pension you have to pay in to - a private pension - but one which you still have to treat and manage with transparency and honesty?

    I think identity fraud is quite a serious offence, on reflection. The novel is set in the years following the end of WWII - I seem to recall about 1952. Albeit the war and bombing raids which destroyed public records had enabled people to claim false identity, it is also true that the war would have meant greater suspicion would be attached to the motives you might have for claiming to be someone else. The police might be stringently trying to keep public order, and might react heavily to anyone falsifying a burial basically, and causing false reports to be written in the newspaper. 
    SPOILER ALERT However, I do agree with what I think are your sentiments taliavisay - arbel that any outcome must surely be preferable to committing a murder. Perhaps Agatha Christie is telling us that this ordinary seeming lady is sociopathic beneath the surface, and to her, no other person's welfare must stand in her way. She will help them generously, like she wants to help SPOILER ALERT Phillipa, but the sociopath's vanity requires that, in their eyes, self-interest must come first.

    SPOILER ALERT Bunny's demise hints at the sociopathic tendency. There surely could be alternatives if you were a normal person who was just plain scared. Bunny could be sent on a holiday to Eastbourne before the crime is committed. but maybe the murderer didn't have time to plan out all this. The balckmail scare meant she had to act quickly. If Bunny is  more indscreet after the murder, I suppose there is nothing that can be done because the police won't let anyone leave.

    Interesting to examine it!!!  


  • Actually, Agatha Christie does tell us how she feels about it - in a later Miss Marple book (I don't remember which), Miss Marple recalls this case and defines the murdurer as not evil but weak, and driven on by events, once she had started. 
  • Here is the quote, from 4.50 from Paddington: “just a weak amiable character who wanted a great deal of money. Money that that person wasn’t entitled to, but there seemed an easy way to get it. Not murder then. Just something so easy and simple that it hadn’t seemed wrong. That’s how things begin… But it ended with three murders.”

  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    Fantastic that you found that reference, taliavishaly-arbel. It must have taken some looking for, and some memory!! It is great the way that AC refers to other novels within he novels. It shows that she is conscious of pursuing themes in her writing. Yes, really interesting to read, and to consider at which juncture in L's story is the moment when, to loosely paraphrase Poirot speaking to Jacqueline,  in Death on the Nile, evil enters the heart and won't leave.

    I seem to remember reading that the American crime novelist James Lee Burke commented that every writer's mission is to search for a definition of good and of evil? It certainly seems to be a preoccupation of Agatha Christie in A Murder Is Announced to show us how weakness can tip over into evil. 

    I think it is the case that many sociopathic types are weak but perfectly amiable unless their self-interest is threatened. It interests me that Agatha Christie describes some of her characters as having absolutely no moral scruples, or little moral sense as though there was a deficit in their make up which they almost could not help.SPOILER ALERT 'One of those charming young men who have no moral sense.'is how she describes Lawrence Redding, in Murder At The Vicarage. She describes SPOILER ALERT Lance Percival, in A Pocket Full Of Rye, as, "...just the type of person who would commit these murders. He's sane, brilliant, and quite unscrupulous."  And, of course the killer SPOILER ALERT in Mrs Mc Ginty's Dead tries, when rumbled, to tell Inspector Spence:  "I'm not responsible. It's in my blood. I can't help it."  Not that it seems, on balance, taking all the novels into account, that AC had much truck with modern psychological theories: it seems she believed very much in good and evil, and didn't try to make excuses for her killers.
  • I didn't realize till you pointed it out - she really has a lot of "morally blind" killers! There are others - in "crooked house", and more. I'm not sure I completely buy it - I do think people vary in kindness and empathy, but even people who are self-centred by nature can be taught morals and pro-social behavior. Violence and poor impulse control seem to be more heriditary and inborn than selfishness.
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    Hi Tali,

    Yes, it interesting to consider modern scientific research. I did read on WIKI that, relative to the rest of the population, sociopathy can be more prevalent in a small percentage of those with a diagnosed condition associated with poor impulse control. Having said that, it is so complex and often unsatisfactory, to consider works of fiction set in earlier times in the light of modern theories. I remember a lecturer on You Tube making the point about Shakespeare's Iago, saying you cannot talk about sociopathy in relation to Shakespeare's characters, but rather you have to see the intention as being to create an evil character. The novel I can think of in which AC considers heredity is Mrs McGinty's dead. There is the discussion of it among the neighbours. I note, also, though, that AC can vary her attitude towards heredity. SPOILER ALERT In the Moving Finger we are told that Megan's dad went to jail for fraud, but there is no suggestion that this fact would make her an unsuitable bride for Jerry. However,SPOILER ALERTin  Five Little Pigs, there is conveyed a sense of relief that the daughter of Caroline Crale is not, after all, the offspring of a murderer. 
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