A Murder Is Announced
A Murder Is Announced is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in June 1950 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in the same month. The UK edition retailed at eight shillings and sixpence (8/6) and the US edition at $2.50.] The novel features her detective Miss Marple and is considered a crime novel classic. The book was heavily promoted upon publication in 1950 as being Christie's fiftieth book, although in truth this figure could only be arrived at by counting in both UK and US short story collections. Plot summary
A strange notice appears in the morning paper of a perfectly ordinary small English village, Chipping Cleghorn: "A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks, at 6:30 p.m. Friends accept this, the only intimation." This apparently comes as a great surprise to Letitia Blacklock, the owner of Little Paddocks, as she has no idea what the notice means; she didn't place it and none of her companions knows more than she. Miss Blacklock decides to take it in her stride and prepares herself to have guests that evening. Naturally, the villagers are intrigued by this notice, and several of them appear on the doorstep with awkward reasons but a definite interest. As the clock strikes 6:30, the lights go out and a door swings open, revealing a man with a blinding torch. In a heavily accented voice, the man demands they "Stick 'em up!" Most of the guests do so, believing it to be part of a game. The game ends when shots are fired into the room. The door slams shut, and panic takes hold: in short order, it's discovered that the fuses are blown, the gunman has been shot, and Ms. Blacklock's ear is bleeding, apparently from a bullet's near-miss. The most curious thing of all is the gunman: he is recognized by Dora Bunner (an old friend of Letitia's, affectionately known as "Bunny," who lives at Little Paddocks as her companion) as Rudi Scherz, the receptionist at a local spa, who had asked Letitia for money just a few short days ago. The police are called in. All clues suggest that the case is merely a strange suicide or accidental death, but Inspector Craddock is uneasy about both possibilities. As luck would have it, Miss Marple is a guest at the very same spa where Rudi Scherz was employed. Craddock is advised to involve her in the case, and the two commence working together. At the spa, it emerges that Rudi has a criminal background, but petty theft and forgery rather than any more serious crime. His girlfriend, a waitress at the spa, however, reveals that he had been paid to appear as the holdup man; he believed it was all "a silly English joke", and was clearly not planning on being shot at. With this new knowledge, Craddock returns to Chipping Cleghorn. Miss Marple, not uncoincidentally, is the godmother of the local vicar's wife, and decides to stay with her. The first step is to establish a motive for Scherz's attack on Miss Blacklock. This presents a problem: Letitia has no known enemies. She worked for a successful financier (Randall Goedler) and has done quite well for herself but is not herself wealthy. She does not lead a lavish life and, aside from her house, she has only enough to live on. However, she may shortly come into a great deal of money; Randall Goedler's estate passed to his wife, Belle, when he died. Belle is frail, and is now very near death. When Belle dies, Miss Blacklock inherits everything. If, however, she predeceases Belle, the estate goes to the mysterious "Pip" and "Emma", children of Randall's estranged sister, Sonia. No one knows where these two are, much less what they look like. Inspector Craddock discovers oil on the hinges of a door into the parlour (where the shooting took place) thought to be unused, and Bunny mentions that until quite recently there had been a table placed against the door. Inspector Craddock travels to Scotland to meet Belle; she...
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