Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Two by Agatha to almost finish the year's reading

74. The Sittaford Mystery
by Agatha Christie
mystery, 1931
Kindle book - 18
finished, 12/20/10

75. A Murder is Announced
fourth in the Miss Marple series
by Agatha Christie
mystery, 1950
Kindle book - 19
finished, 12/27/10

I'm going to do a combined book report for two reasons: one, the end of the year is fast approaching and I would like to complete my book reports for 2010 and two, these two, read one after the other, may just be my favorite Agatha Christie books yet. I use the word 'may' because so often when I finish one of her stories, I think that it is the best one so far; but these two really are both excellent books. I do know that A Murder is Announced is my favorite Jane Marple book. I wish Agatha had given her this much attention and time in all the other books in which she makes an appearance. I feel like I've really gotten to know her in this book. She is a fully drawn character, not just someone who pops in to give the solution to a mysterious death. And it really is quite possible that The Sittaford Mystery is my favorite Agatha book of all I've read. It begins, sounding like Great Britain in December 2010.
The scene that met his eyes was typical of the English countryside as depicted on Xmas cards and in old-fashioned melodramas. Everywhere was snow, deep drifts of it - no mere powdering an inch or two thick. Snow had fallen all over England for the last four days, and up here on the fringe of Dartmoor it had attained a depth of several feet.
Up here, in the tiny village of Sittaford, at all times remote from the world, and now almost completely cut off, the rigours of winter were a very real problem.
This is a perfectly delightful mystery with all the elements that we mystery readers love: snow, an isolated moor, a plucky young amateur detective trying to save her fiancé who is in jail for murder, and intriguing village characters. The story begins at a tea given by the Willets, mother and daughter, who have rented a house. No one in the village can figure out why they would want to live so far away from everything, but are happy to spend time in their company. The amusement of choice is a bit of 'table turning.' You may read more about this phenomenon here. The table begins to rock and spells out: 'Captain Trevelyan is dead.'

And then the word 'murder' appears. The time is 'twenty-five minutes past five.'There aren't any telephones in Sittaford, so Trevelyan's great friend, Major Burnaby sets out to trudge miles through the snow to see if the table spirit told the truth. And the reader is off on a great mystery adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed being along for the ride. My beloved Agatha Christie - A Reader's Companion by Vanessa Wagstaff & Stephen Poole offers this picture of early versions.

The top picture is a UK edition, while the bottom right is a US edition, with a different name. I'll never understand why all countries can't use the same title for a book! The Reader's Companion tells us that:
The name Sittaford came from Sittaford Tor, on Dartmoor, where Christie completed her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, after a visit to the Moorland Hotel.
A Murder is Announced begins in a novel, delightful manner. We follow the fellow who delivers newspapers around the village of Chipping Cleghorn and see what the villagers are reading. Into a mother and adult son household comes The Times and The Daily Worker. Two women receive the Daily Telegraph and the New Chronicle. This introduces the characters; and I expect that readers in 1950 knew just what the people were like by what paper they read. In addition to the large papers,
At all these houses, and indeed at practically every house in Chipping Cleghorn, he delivered every Friday a copy of the North Benham News and Chipping Cleghorn Gazette, known locally simply as 'The Gazette'.
This ensures that everyone in the village shall read this notice:
A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m. Friends please accept this, the only intimation.
Of course everyone simply must go to Little Paddocks to see just what this is all about. Many think it is a parlor game of murder. But when the lights go out and gunshots are fired, they see the game is real. When the lights come on, the shooter lies dead, and hostess Letitia Blacklock's ear is bleeding. And the mystery begins. Who is this man? Why did he try to kill Miss Blacklock? And why was it 'announced' beforehand?

The police receive a letter from Miss Jane Marple who is staying at a nearby hotel and there is:
Something she thinks we might like to know in connection with this Chipping Cleghorn business.
Because Sir Henry Clithering, retired Scotland Yard detective is helping out in the case, and because he knows Jane, her letter is taken seriously. He says of her:
She's just the finest detective God ever made.
As I noted previously, she is a fully involved character in this book. The Miss Marple characteristics are here - the way she really notices details, and the way she draws conclusions about people because they remind her of villagers in her own St. Mary Mead. When the police are about to close the case, she presents them with information that changes the course of the investigation. This is an intricate mystery involving interior design, past lives of the characters, important relationships, and people who may not be as they seem. Truly, an excellent mystery in every way.

Again from The Reader's Companion,
A Murder is Announced is the last jacket to have a pictorial design, as Christie preferred jackets without images that conflicted with her view of the contents.
So there you have it, my last two books by Agatha Christie in 2010. If you have an interest in her work, there's a wonderful ongoing challenge you may enjoy. It has no requirements, and no beginning or ending dates - just a group of people who want to read their way through the works of Agatha Christie. There are monthly compilations of reviews which appear on the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival. I keep track of my own progress in the Book Reports tab under the blog header photograph.


  1. I have a bunch of Christie that I picked up from my library sale earlier this year with the full intention of reading them in 2011. I can't wait!

  2. These are two of my favorite Agatha's as well. I think the first one has another name - can't remember it. Anyway, I do remember the Major going through the snow to check on Captain Trevelyan. I love, love, love A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED. Aren't the characters great? I love the scene where everyone shows up to attend the murder - while all professing to stopping by for other trivial reasons. The vicar's wife runs in and says she hopes she's not late for the murder! Such honesty! LOL

    Glad you've enjoyed the books. Hope you guys have a very Happy New Year!

  3. Two of my favourites too Nan, Aren't they lovely reads :0) :0):0) and the Sittaford mystery is great for a snowy evening.

    The BBC do a great Sittaford Mystery Drama (in 4 parts I think)

    I don't think there A Murder is announced drama worked as well for me as they had to cut to much.

    Have you read A Pale Horse yet?
    I'm really enjoying rereading it at the moment.

  4. Staci, if you come back here, I'd love to know the titles.

    Kay, I thought they might be. :<) I love the vicar's wife, Bunch.

    Val, I haven't read A Pale Horse. Maybe in 2011?!

  5. I like all her books and can read and re-read them. I have done this particularly during the Christmas season - it is a real comfort read for me personally.

  6. You read a lot of eBooks this year. I just bought another Kindle after selling my other one early in 2010 when I got the iPad and had the Kindle App on that, but I do like the easy on the eyes--read in sunlight feature of the Kindle.

  7. I've been watching some of the Miss Marples on TV this week, the Joan Hickson ones - she was sublime, the perfect Jane Marple. Hated the Geraldine McEwen version and am reserving judgement on Julia McKenzie, the new one; though she is such a good actress that I'm warming to her.

    Are you a Miss Silver fan, Nan? I wish they'd put those books on tv; similar period to Miss Marple but not the same old plots.

  8. I love Agatha's books. I have not read all of her books but I will be reading or listening to more of them in 2011 for sure!! Thanks for all your reviews and Happy New Year to you and yours!!

  9. Oh, I am glad you enjoyed The Sittaford Mystery, because it's one of my favourites too. I think I need to organise my AC reading, I've lost track rather, and if I'm not careful, I'll buy something I've already got, or have recently read. A trawl through Library Thing and my blog is called for :)

  10. A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED is one of my all time favorite Christies! I even like the PBS Mystery production with Joan Hickson done many years ago. A terrific book!

    Oh yes, do read PALE HORSE. It is outstanding!

    And by the way: Happy New Year, Nan!

  11. Mystica, I thank you so much for coming by and I've added you to my bloglist. Reading dear Agatha is like eating the food you love the most; in my case, potatoes!

    Diane, I'm not quite sure what you meant. If you come back, please do tell the sequence. :<) I've not used my Kindle in the sunshine. It is strictly my bedtime 'book.'

    Oh, Nicola, how very nice to hear from you. I haven't read Miss Silver, but have received several comments recommending them. I shall read her this coming year. Thank you! Should I read them in order of publication? Or does it matter? Please advise.

    Oh, dear Sherri, I thank you for being such a steadfast commenter. I so love hearing from you!

    Geranium Cat, it was your review that got me to buy and read it!

    Yvette, I shall! And the same to you.


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