Literature / A Murder Is Announced
'A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 5th, at Little Paddocks at 6:30 pm. Friends please accept this, the only intimation.'
'In an English village, you turn over a stone and have no idea what will crawl out.'
So goes the advertisement that stirs up the sleepy little village of Chipping Cleghorn. That night, a dozen people come together to witness the murder, including the inhabitants of Little Paddocks, all of them equally clueless about the situation. Or are they? When the clock strikes six thirty, the lights go out and a man bursts into the room with a flashlight, yelling "Stick 'em up!" Though the people all react differently, they still think it's just a game — until three gunshots are fired. Two of the bullets hit the wall and injure the hostess, while the third one hits and kills... the intruder.
Published in 1950 as Agatha Christie
's 50th book and adapted into several movies and miniseries, including a 2005 adaptation on ITV
The novel provides examples of:
- Action Girl: In their backstories, at least. Hinch was an Air Raid Precautions warden during the war, while Emma a.k.a. Julia was in the French resistance.
- The Bait: Miss Marple talks Mitzi into taking this role; as a result the murderer is caught as she attempts to drown Mitzi in the sink.
- Break the Cutie: The murderer's sympathetic backstory.
- Butch Lesbian: Though never explicitly stated to be one, Miss Hinchcliffe very much fits this trope.
- Celibate Hero: Belle Goedler suspects Letty Blacklock is aromantic, or something very similar.
- Dead Person Impersonation: "Letitia" is really the other sister, Charlotte. The real Letitia is long dead. Reasons had to do with inheriting a large sum of money and thinking the fraud couldn't possibly hurt anyone.
- Deadly Deferred Conversation: Miss Murgatroyd realizes "she wasn't there". Miss Hinchcliffe tells her they'll talk about it later—and Murgatroyd is murdered while Hinchcliffe is fetching a dog from the station.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Patrick.
- The Ditz: Miss Murgatroyd and Dora Bunner. Mrs Easterbrook plays up to the trope, but is quickly revealed as a shrewd gold-digger using it as a facade.
- Does Not Like Men: While theorizing about the murder, Miss Hinchcliffe states she only uses the male pronoun "he" because it's shorter, but she does add that "we all know what dirty pigs men are." She's wrong.
- Funny Foreigner: In what now reads as rather cringeworthy Values Dissonance, Patrick and Julia treat Mitzi, the high-strung Eastern European refugee cook, like one.
- Gold Digger: Inspector Craddock accuses Edmund of being one, but both are playing parts to try to trap the murderer. Julia accuses Patrick of being one also.
- The Julia/Patrick one is inverted in the Leslie Darbon stage adaptation - Emma openly admits to having pursued Patrick partly to get at Letitia's inheritance. Depending on the portrayal, though, she may also have genuine feelings for him.
- Gossipy Hens: Letitia's neighbours react to the murder advertisement exactly as planned, by showing up at her place at the appointed time and doing a very bad job of hiding their anticipation.
- Hide Your Lesbians: There's a strong subtext between Odd Couple housemates Misses Hinchcliffe and Murgatroyd, but the exact nature of their relationship is not specified. Hinch's vengeful rage at the murderer of Murgatroyd is telling.
- His Name Is...: Poor Miss Murgatroyd. Also a case of Cannot Spit It Out, since she had plenty of time to finish the sentence.
- Interface Spoiler: Bizarrely inverted. The book continues to refer to Emma Stamfordis as Julia Simmons even after the reveal - dialogue tags and even the dialogue itself.
- Kill the Ones You Love: Even though the killer loved one of the victims, she was killed out of fear that she was inadvertently revealing too much about the first murder.
- Last Minute Hookup: Philippa "Pip" and Edmund.
- Last-Name Basis: "Hinch" and Murgatroyd.
- Lights Off, Somebody Dies: The one you would least expect.
- Little Old Lady Investigates: Miss Marple is of course the Trope Codifier, but she's also aware about it: "A policeman asking questions is open to the grave of suspicion, but an old lady asking questions is just an old lady asking questions."
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Julia is Philippa's sister.
- Mystery Magnet: When Miss Marple goes to Chipping Cleghorn with the excuse of visiting the vicar's wife, "Bunch" Harmon (who is a distant niece of hers), the vicar remarks, "A man dies in highly suspicious circumstances in Chipping Cleghorn, and suddenly Aunt Jane is coming to stay." Bunch isn't about to argue with him.
- Never One Murder
- Nobody Over 50 Is Gay: Miss Hinchliffe and Miss Murgatroyd, according to a discussion on the Golden Age Mysteries forum.
- Noodle Incident: The police discover something unpleasant about Mrs Easterbrook's past, but as it isn't relevant to the murder they ignore it and we never hear any more details.
- Pet's Homage Name: Rev. Julian Harmon, an Oxford alumnus, named his cat Tiglath Pileser after an Assyrian king.
- Red Herring: The death of Philippa Haymes' husband in a car accident turns out to be completely incidental, and has nothing to do with the main murder plot.
- The Reveal: A whole chain reaction of them at the Summation Gathering.
- Ripping Off the String of Pearls: Miss Blacklock accidentally breaks her pearl necklace, and her horrified reaction makes everyone wonder why the necklace is so important to her. It was hiding the operation scar that would have identified her as Charlotte, not Letitia.
- Sarcastic Devotee: Miss Hinchcliffe is rather gruff in her dealings with Miss Murgatroyd, but shows deep affection when pressed.
- Separated at Birth: Philippa and Julia are really long-lost siblings Pip and Emma.
- Screaming Woman: Mitzi, frequently, on very little provocation. Luckily, she's also a brilliant cook.
- Solomon Divorce: the above mentioned Separated at Birth: is caused bye Pip and Emma's parents separating if not actually divorcing.
- Summation Gathering: Subverted - it's a decoy to 'frame' a willing Edmund and put Miss Blacklock off guard.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Downplayed. The murderer is shown as a weak and kindly person who was driven to kill as a result of the consequences of her unwise actions, and who was tired of living a horrible life - but, as Miss Marple points out, others had had it worse and had got back on their feet without having to resort to murder.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Charlotte Blacklock
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Letitia's death, preventing Charlotte from enjoying the inheritance that would have, in her eyes, made up for the years of affliction she suffered.
Adaptations provide examples of:
- Accidental Innuendo: In the Leslie Darbon stage adaptation -
We'll just go and feed the ducks or something, then.
- Not actually innuendo in-universe, but given the rather ridiculous placement (delivered by Patrick immediately after being almost caught - or actually caught, depending on the production - apparently passionately kissing his own sister) "feeding the ducks" has been known to become a production in-joke.
- Adapted Out: The Leslie Darbon stage adaptation omits the Easterbrooks, Hinchcliffe, Murgatroyd, the vicar, his wife and his cat, and Rudi Scherz's girlfriend. The Easterbrooks are mentioned as being out of town, and the vicar otherwise engaged, so it's arguably an Alternate Universe rather than a simple Retcon.
- Adaptational Jerkass: Edmund has a lengthy passage with Phillipa at Dayas Hall in the book which serves greatly to humanise him and make him more likeable. It doesn't appear in the adaptations.
- Adaptational Name Change: Mitzi is renamed Hannah in the Joan Hickson adaptation; and the vicar's cat Tiglath Pileser is renamed Delilah.
- Adaptational Nationality: Mitzi. The book implies she is a German Jew; the play implies she is from Soviet-occupied Hungary.
- Adaptational Nice Guy: Patrick is generally more likable in the Joan Hickson adaptation, and is shown to be worthier of Emma.
- Adaptational Wimp: In the stage play, Patrick's Navy service isn't mentioned; nor is Emma's time with the French Resistance and resulting excellent marksmanship. There is no mention of Edmund finally getting published, as he did in the book; he remains stuck in the stereotype of "useless rich boy with writing hobby".
- British Stuffiness: The 1985 adaptation opens with the following conversation:
Mrs Easterbrook: Archie... there's going to be a murder.
Col Easterbrook: What time?
Mrs Easterbrook: Seven o'clock this evening.
Col Easterbrook: Short notice.
- Composite Character: In the Darbon version, the vicar's wife Bunch doesn't appear, so her role of providing humorous commentary that makes the rest of the room cringe is split between Patrick and Bunny.
- Deadpan Snarker: In the 1985 adaptation, during the conversation at the Bluebird Cafe, Bunny mentions Edmund Swettenham is a communist, to which Miss Marple mutters into her cup, "Well, he must be quite lonely in Chipping Cleghorn."
- Did Not Get the Girl:
- In the Darbon play, it's left ambiguous in the script and can go either way depending on the production.
- In the 1985 BBC version with Joan Hickson, averted.
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The Darbon play begins on Friday 13 October. Although the play is careful to avoid dating itself more precisely than mid-century, if you take this literally it means the play is set in 1950, the year in which the book was published.
- Lampshade Hanging: The 1985 BBC television adaptation introduces several examples.
- Not What It Looks Like: From an audience perspective. In the stage play, Patrick and Emma kiss long before it's explained, or even hinted at, that she is Emma, not Julia.