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

adminadmin Cuanza Norte, Angola
June's Book of the Month is A Murder is Announced, promoted as Agatha Christie's 50th book and celebrated this year in its 65th anniversary.

Leave your thoughts, theories, questions and queries below.



  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I love this book, I love the Plot, The Characters It is perfect, I haven't got a bad word to say about it.
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    I will re-read this marvelous book! It's one of the best! Not only Miss Marple's best, but A.C!
    And the ending is incredible! It's a masterpiece!
  • shanashana Paramaribo, Suriname
    Admin, I was wondering how it"s decided which title becomes the book of the month? 
  • The book very good I liked it only the thing is you can guess the murderer but not the story behind him/her of course ... One thing I personally did not like was that there was two woman who were a couple,like seriously!! That kind of ruined the book for me as there was no need for such a thing IMHO
  • Oh actually I forgot to mention that I finished the book without knowing that fact and I liked it alot ,then I read on Wikipedia that they were couple and so on ,but I don't know if it's true or no..
  • edited June 2015


    In A Murder Is Announced, the Geraldine McEwan TV adaption), the producers had Murgatrod and Hinch kiss and hold hands whereas in the book and the Joan Hickson adaptation none of this is even in there. Now critics have said that they are both lesbians and they said that it's hinted in the book that they are but how so?-- because Hinch has cropped hair like a man (as it is described in the book) and because you find the two living together? It is very possible that they are both lesbians, but if someone says that they are because they live together you have to look at the times, the era, and what occurred. Was it really that ODD to find two women living together during that time in post-war England where the country is dealing with rations and times are kind of rough? Just because two women are living together doesn't mean they are a couple, just as today when you see two women living together . . . . and you certainly can't jump to the conclusion that they are a couple. The only conclusion I can come up with as to why critics question Murgatrod and Hinch's sexuality is because Hinch looks and acts masculine and Murgatrod doesn't and they just so HAPPEN to live together.

    But it is very possible, as I said earlier, that Hinch and Murgatroyd are lesbians in the book and that Agatha Christie was trying to say it without ACTUALLY saying it. You got to remember, back then, this matter was taboo whereas today it is not and it's more open and talked about so for Christie to blatantly say that both women were would not have been appropriate at that time, whereas in the Poirot book The Halloween Party the word "lesbian" is used and is the only Christie book to have that word, and you have to remember that the book was published in the 60's and times were changing and certain things were becoming more permissible and talked about in the open.

    This is very interesting to discuss and I'm just laying out some points for discussion, bringing out views on both sides of the fence. I think at the end of this discussion I'll bring my opinion out in the open.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    iThe wonderful thing about the Book and BBC version is that the situation is not spelt out so people who woulf rather not thing=k of them as lovers can do so and people who want to take the opposite view can do so, but just because they hold hands in the ITV version doesn't mean that they are necessarily portraying them as lovers as the stange thing about the difference of |Men and women is that women have always been able to hold hands without people wanting to label them Lesbiens, I reember watching the news a while ago and saw children in rows of 2 walking into assembly boy holding boy's hands girls holding girls hands, It is so sad life will soon teach these children this is frowned on.
  • youngmrquinyoungmrquin Buenos Aires, Argentina
    As everyone has stated before, this book is a masterpiece. Indeed, not only is Miss Marple's best, but also I find it to be one of the best Christie's ever. It's certainly in the first place of my AC ranking.
    From the invitation to the event from the multiple scenes with all the characters, to the investigation of the police and the second murder and all the possibilities discussed of whom might be the villain in all this, this is classic Christie fun. 
    Miss Marple is also excellent in her research, talking those involved and then "discovering" what really happened by an irrelevant domestic event.
    About the debate about if they were or were not a couple, I have nothing to add, just to say that effectively, this is not something explicit in the book and it's left to the imagination of the reader.
  • Yes, I agree with the consensus that this is a masterpiece and perfectly paced in terms of what information we are allowed to know. Miss Marple's engagement with the characters is so well drawn because she really understands that type and how they could think as they do. SPOILER ALERT On one level the crime is so everyday, and true to life. There is one premise I really, really like, SPOILER ALERT!!!!  when Miss Marple says SPOILER ALERT!! that it would be so much easier for the person who owned the house to have arranged for the murder to take place. So true, but you don't see it. The romance bit is great too.

    Interesting though, I saw a factual error which is something which I have not spotted in any other AC book. Julia's eyes change colour when described in two different chapters. 

  • I found the first murder to be very complex, and felt there were too many chances for it failing - either not killing or being caught. Other than that I really liked the book and agree with most of the things said here. As to Hinchcliff and Murgatroid - I think at the time, two women living together was more common than now, for several reasons: because of the two World Wars there was a shortage of men, in England and in all Europe. That meant both a personal loss (women who couldn't have male partners) and financial hardship for women, who even if they had an income or job, were typically less well off and secure than men. I think probably in most cases it was just a matter of companionship and economic necessity, and also that when there was a lesbian relationship it was probably discreet on the part of the couple, and ignored by society, or rather treated as just housemates, so that they could be accepted by (conservative) others. Interesting that in Cards on the Table no one suspects the two girls living together are lesbians - they are obviously attracted to men, but still live together for companionship and sharing expenses.

  • Interesting though, I saw a factual error which is something which I have not spotted in any other AC book. Julia's eyes change colour when described in two different chapters. 

    Good job coming across that; very observant!
  • @taliavishay-arbel: concerning the subject of homosexuality, back then in the 50's if a lesbian couple moved into the neighborhood or an English village and if they looked the way Agatha Christie described Hinch and Murgatroyd in the book, wouldn't there have been unacceptance, gossping, and some sort of heavy-handed, harsh, or smart a'leck remark or comment towards them from others, maybe not everyone but at least someone (not a comment concerning their sexual orientation but any harsh comment that would indicate something of the sort like "I know who you are and I don't approve of it", not exactly saying that but showing it in their attitude and comments)? Concerning Hinch and Murgatroyd's appearance when they were both seen together, would that have been the stereotypical appearance of how others perceived a lesbian couple to actually look like in England in the 1950's?
  • That's true - about Cards on the Table. And in the case of when one woman was a paid companion, it wasn't necessarily broadcast - it was accepted that these were two woman choosing to live together. 

    I felt that there was a good chance of the first plot failing, but made less chancy if SPOILER ALERT !! the murderer is the resident - and there is the crucial issue of the door which was oiled and unlocked unbeknown to anyone else. It gives the killer a major advantage. I don't think the young man expected any threat, so he would be a sitting duck. What I like in a way is the sense that it is a risk, and that it is why everything unravels for the murderer - so there is a logic there - because the killer doesn't get away with the crime. It is very similar, in that respect, to Death on the Nile SPOILER ALERT!!, when the crime is a matter of minutes, and risky if anyone sees, which in the case of the first and second murder they do see it, and all goes wrong for the killer. Perhaps this is what happens with optimistic  sociopathic killer, they think they are too clever, all seems to be going their way, but if someone has seen, their story won't make sense - so the crime depends completely on all going to plan - which they confidently always think it will, and don't really make contigency plans for it not.

     I can imagine the killer in A Murder is Announced must have made the dishonest decision she did a few years earlier, and then realised, to her horror, that there can be no turning back, and the consequences of disclosure will be terrible.
  • This is an interesting point - is there really no turning back? When the book starts. the fraud has been committed, but has not had any results - Belle Goedler is still alive, the money is still hers. When the risk of exposure arises, The heroine can still expose herself, give up the fraudulent scheme, and at worst face a bit of censure and ridicule.(She doesn't even have to go public - only let Belle Goedler and her lawyers know).  However, either at this point the expectation of the inheritance is to much of a temptation, or else her respectibility is too important. I think that in "Death on the Nile" Poirot talks about the point of no return, and the need to pull back before that point. Here, that point is not the appearance of Rudi Shertz but his death.
  • Yes, Miss Marple, in Murder is Announced, does SPOILER ALERT!!! talk about announcements in the paper, re deaths, and Bunny gets in touch with L because she has seen that she is giving prizes or something at a fete,  SPOILER ALERT !!! and when Bunny gets there, she sees that it is the wrong L. So, there was the chance that the papers could get hold of the story if Rudy went to them, and then all these friends and connections L had known would look down on her.  I think if a third party, not Belle discovered and went to the police it might be treated as serious fraud. It could be argued that there would be not only social humiliation if the fraud were to be discovered - but probably prison too. SPOILER ALERT !! She had conned people  out of what was rightfully theirs. 

    But on the other hand, I feel, Taliavishay -arbel that you are correct. She would own up, and Belle would forgive and understand, given Belle's magnaminous and unmaterialistic charactier - and maybe Belle would think that if the rich guy whose name escapes me wanted to help SPOILER ALERT his secretary, he wouldn't want her sister to go without the good things in life either. Perhaps there was a chance for L to turn back, when she saw that she might be blackmailed by Rudy: she could have thrown herself on Belle's mercy. That way, there would be nothing for Rudy to gain if he went to the police because Belle would tell the police to leave it.

     However, anything involving blackmail could result in one losing the bulk of one's fortune - so it depends on how fond of money one is how one responds to a blackmailer. 

    That being said, especially given Belle's character, I think you are correct, and she could have got out of the mess sooner. I'm now seeing the novel with new eyes. SPOILER ALERT I think the character of the murderer is important: she had been a carefree and happy young woman, before her illness, and as such, probably wasn't very stoical, and able to cope with a session of embarrassment for the sake of doing what is right and owning up.  
  • SEMI SPOILER ALERT Is it credible that two sisters would not at first recognize one another? I know there has been an intervening period of about 23 years, but don't people just sense something if they are twins?
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

    One is morec observent than the other and recognises the twin, I wouldn't mind betting the other one The Gardner came to Chipping Cleghorn knowing that Miss Blacklock was there and thought she might see er long lost sibling.

  • Yes, I guess that in those days, claiming kin, or seeking out a benefactor who isn't a relative was the key way to get out of a mess with lack of money. Again, Miss Marple is always commenting on announcements in the paper and one of the sisters being mentioned. As they were 'Society' it would be easy to find out what they were doing - for anyone interested in knowing.
  • Griselda - at the point where the story begins, the killer has actually committed no crime but false identity - the property and money she owns come from her father and sister who are dead, and who, we have every reason to believe, have not made wills leaving their property elsewhere. So that if at this point she decides to backpedal there probably won't be any criminal proceedings involved, and certainly no prison time. 

    About 2 women living together - this is a situation that appears in other writers' books, and was probably more common than it is today. E.G. in the Chalet School series, Grizel ends up joining a friend of hers on a chicken farm. And the highly moral Chalet School owners lend her the money for her share - so this is a perfectly acceptable way of life for a young to middle-aged woman who doesn't have the inclination or the means (financial, physical or social) to marry. 
  • I see what you mean. She doesn't get the money, SPOILER ALERT until after Belle's death. So, what drives her, I wonder, to her crime? Embarrassment; greed? It does seem like going to extreme lengths.

  • 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
  •  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".
  • 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.”

  • 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.
  • 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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