A Murder is Announced - October 04 - October 14, 2023

Norfolk Community Theatre

 Agatha Christie Notes by Emma Burris-Janssen 

Agatha Christie

Born in 1890, Agatha Christie reigned as Britain's Queen of Crime from the 1920s until her death in 1976.  Even today, her name conjures a world that is instantly recognizable as Christie-esque - a world packed with vicars' wives, caddish heirs, duplicitous servants, crumbling country homes, and carefully hidden vendettas.  Christie's ability to transport readers to this rarefied world has made her the bestselling novelist of all time, outsold by only the Bible and Shakespeare.

World War I marked the start of Agatha's career as a novelist.  Inspired by her wartime experiences in the hospital dispensary and her encounters with Belgian refugees living near her hometown of Torquay in Devon, Agatha created Hercule Poirot, whose first literary outing occurred in 1920's The Mysterious Affair at Styles.  Hercule Poirot was a new kind of detective. Where a detective like Sherlock Holmes represented an idealized version of English masculinity (logical, athletic, scientific, masterful), Hercule Poirot countered and critiqued this with his fussy, effeminate "foreignness."  Poirot created the template for Christie's typical detective: a cultural outsider who cannily exploits their outsider status to solve the thorniest cases.

Following the breakdown of her first marriage to Archie Christie in the 1920s, Agatha travelled extensively, meeting and later marrying archaeologist Max Mallowan in 1930. This marked another sea change in her writing as many of her post-1930 plots bear the imprint of time spent with Max on his archaeological digs.  With her next iconic detective, however, Agatha returned home to her classic terrain: the English village. 


Miss Marple and A Murder is Announced

Agatha's spinster detective Miss Marple got her first full-length novel in 1930 with the publication of The Murder at the Vicarage.  Based on Agatha's grandmothers Maragaret Miller and Mary Ann Boehmer, Miss Marple is an elderly spinster, who, as Agatha put in in her autobiography, "always expect(s) the worst of everyone and everything, and (i)s, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right." Like Poirot before her, Miss Maprle is overlooked and undervalued by her society, a fact that leads suspects to let thier guard down around her and share informatoin they would never divulge to the police.  Miss Marple rarely ventures beyond her 

village of St. Mary Mead, but within its environs, she hones her forensic sensibilities, converting its inhabitants into templates for different criminal "types."

Published in 1950, A Murder is Announced presents Agatha Christie and her spinster detective at their most assured.  By 1950, Agatha Christie had acquired the status of a cultural institution, and her plots were running like well-oiled machines.  A Murder is Announced is classic Agatha Christie with a dash of postwar anxiety: Miss Marple must solve a murder in a traditional English village at a time of transition and uncertainty.  No one is necesarily who they say they are.  All identities can be drawn into question  But, even when some things change, some things remain the same: expecting the wors fo humanity works as well for Miss Marple in 1950 as it did in 1930. 

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