A Murder Is Announced Summary

Agatha Christie

A Murder Is Announced

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A Murder Is Announced Summary

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A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie begins with the newspaper in Chipping Cleghorn, The Gazette, printing a story about a murder. The odd thing is that the murder has yet to take place. Most of the people of Chipping Cleghorn believe that the announcement is merely an invitation for a game, and not an actual murder. The event is advertised to take place at Miss Blacklock’s home—known as Little Paddocks—at half past six o’clock. Neighbors attend. The lights go out and they hear gunshots. When the place is illuminated, a bullet has grazed Miss Blacklock, and a man lies dead at her feet, a gun next to him on the floor. The neighbors realize the advertisement was not a game—the man really was killed.

But was it murder? Or suicide? Maybe it was an accident. Detectives arrive to launch an investigation, questioning the neighbors and Miss Blacklock. They ask who the man was, whether he wanted something that was worth killing for. They inquire as to whether he had anything that was worth killing for. Among the neighbors present are Mrs. Swettenham and Edmund, her son. Edmund is a writer and an intellectual. There is an elderly couple too—Colonel and Mrs. Easterbrook. Mrs. Easterbrook is a kind woman and her husband a retired military man. There are two widows: Miss Murgatroyd and Miss Hinchcliffe. A pastor and his wife, Mrs. Harmon, are also present.

Five others are in residence with Miss Blacklock. Julia Simmons and her brother, Patrick, are the Miss Blacklock’s young cousins. Miss Dora Bunner, a school friend of Miss Blacklocks, is also staying at Little Paddocks. Miss Blacklock has two employees—Phillipa and Mitzi. Mitzi, the maid, is a refugee of war and often paranoid. The neighbors had arrived earlier in the evening with the pretense of just dropping in—except for Mrs. Harmon, who had asked point blank if the murder had happened yet.

The man who is killed is recognized as Rudi Scherz, a receptionist at a local hotel, who had asked Letitia for money to return to Switzerland, but no one owns up to having any other contact with him. Detective Craddock is investigating his death after he receives a letter from Miss Marple. After interviewing the neighbors and residents of Little Paddock, Craddock determines that Miss Blacklock had something the killer wanted. He learns that she is to inherit a large sum of money from her old boss’s wife. Her boss had no one else to name as beneficiary. Should Miss Blacklock pass before that can happen, then the step-children of her boss’s sister—Pip and Emma—would inherit.

Together, Craddock and Miss Marple dig deeper in their investigations of those present when the victim was shot and killed. As time passes, more people are killed, including Miss Bunner and Miss Murgatroyd. Miss Marple and Craddock learn that Scherz has a criminal past, though he had never committed a violent crime. They also learn that Scherz had been paid to pretend he was holding up Miss Blacklock; he did not know he was going to be shot.

Craddock discovers that a door at Little Paddocks has oil on the hinges. Suspicion arises around Patrick, and the swapping of a lamp before and after the murder. Miss Marple also discovers that all the photos of Sonia—Miss Blacklock’s boss’s wife—are missing, though they were in place before Scherz was killed. Miss Murgatroyd remembers that she could see who was in the room right before the shooting, and tries to remember who was absent—and therefore who was the murderer. However, she is killed before she can reveal the murderer.

With everyone summoned again to Little Paddocks, Craddock intends to perform the final round of questioning. Mitzi calls out that Miss Blacklock is the murderess, but Craddock reveals that Edmund is actually Pip, and he and his mother were both present at the shooting. But Craddock is incorrect; Philipa claims to be Pip. Their confusion is interrupted by a scream from the kitchen.

There, Miss Blacklock is trying to drown Mitzi. She is arrested, and Miss Marple reveals that she is not Letitia Blacklock—Letitia died in Switzerland—but rather her sister, Charlotte, impersonating her to get the inheritance. Scherz knew this, and so she had to kill him before he could reveal the truth. She was the one who hired him to act as if he were robbing her guests. Both Miss Bunner and Miss Murgatroyd were killed because they knew or guessed too much.

The book ends with Phillipa and Julia—who is really Emma—inheriting the money. Edmund and Phillipa marry and live in Chipping Cleghorn.