'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.' 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, A Murder Is Announced is a mystery classic rife with deception, suspense, and English charm.
This mystery 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.
Adaptational Heroism: Patrick is generally more likeable in the Joan Hickson adaptation, shown to be worthier of Emma.
Adaptational Villainy: Edmund Swettenham in the 2005 adaptation is an altogether more bitter and unpleasant boy than in the book, and resentful of his mother's relationship.
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: Miss Hinchcliffe is convinced from the start that the murderer is a man, "because 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.
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. Since Christie held rather old-fashioned views, it's possible that the subtext isn't even intentional (strong-willed, 'mannish' female characters similar to Miss Hinchcliffe actually show up in several other of her novels).
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.
Screaming Woman: Mitzi, frequently, on very little provocation. Luckily, she's also a brilliant cook.
Summation Gathering: Subverted with Inspector Craddock's speech; later played straight by Miss Marple.
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.