Suspicious minds: So, whodunnit in this Christie classic?

Picture: Jamie Craig Photography

From Wednesday February 28 to Saturday March 2, Trinity Theatre Company will be putting on its performance of Agatha Christie’s whodunnit classic A Murder is Announced. Here, the cast gather conspiratorially to reveal more about the play and its fascinating plot…

Nothing out of the ordinary ever happens in Chipping Cleghorn, a quintessentially English village in middle England where everybody knows everybody else. Then, one day a mysterious notice appears in the local gazette, announcing that a murder is to take place at six-thirty that evening at Little Paddocks, the home of the elegant and enigmatic Miss Blacklock.

A host of curious locals, including a nosy neighbour, extended family members, an old childhood friend and the eccentric maid are all present when the lights go out, a gun is fired, and someone winds up dead…

But who was the unfortunate victim? Who was the killer? Well, everyone comes under the suspicion of the grimly humorous but determined Inspector Craddock and the eagle-eyed Miss Marple, who must unravel the puzzle and follow the twists and turns to identify the killer.

We caught up with the Inspector, Miss Blacklock and Miss Marple to delve further into this unsettling turn of events…

So, Miss Marple, what brought you to Chipping Cleghorn?

I’ve been having treatment for rheumatism at the spa in nearby Medenham Wells and have come to know the residents of Chipping Cleghorn very well. So, when I saw the notice in the gazette, naturally I was most curious. Was it some kind of joke? I had some violets to deliver to Miss Bunner, Miss Blacklock’s oldest friend and so leapt at the opportunity to pop in and see what it was all about.

And who was at the house when you arrived?

Miss Blacklock, of course, and Miss Bunner, who by the way was delighted with the violets. But also, Julia and Patrick, relatives of Miss Blacklock. They’re both young, barely 30 years old at a guess, so the thought that one of them had arranged the announcement as some sort of game crossed my mind, after all, it was Friday 13th.

Can you now tell us what happened next?

Well I wasn’t actually in the room at the time of the murder. Apparently the lights went out and shots were fired, but the curious thing is that everyone was in the room at the time. I have an insatiable curiosity and couldn’t help wondering exactly how the murderer could have carried out their crime; I’m usually a very good judge of character, but as events unfolded and questions were asked I started to see cracks in their relationships. I even began to ask myself if they were who they claimed to be. The odd thing was, several of them had motives to see Miss Blacklock dead!

Who do you believe is the main suspect?

My dear, I suspect everyone! Even Mitzi, the maid who wasn’t even in the room at the time! I know from experience that anyone who was in the house when a crime takes place may be the culprit. I must leave no stone unturned.

Did you ever feel at risk, putting yourself in such an exposed situation?

I put myself at risk every time my curiosity gets the better of me! It is an occupational hazard…

And now, on to you Inspector Craddock. Can you tell us more about the scene of the crime?

Well, when I arrived with my colleague, Sergeant Mellors, the body had been moved but I examined the scene with my usual attention to detail. It appears there were bullet holes in the wall where the perpetrator had fired a gun, missing their intended target. We gathered all those who had been present back into the room and asked them to stand or sit exactly where they had been positioned at the time the shots were fired.

Tell us, what did you deduce from this?

Not a lot to begin with apart from the fact that we were dealing with a disruptive group of people. All I want is a chance to ask questions and for nice, peaceful, law-abiding citizens to reply with civility. I didn’t even get a straight answer when I asked Julia to confirm that she was Miss Blacklock’s niece. But a lot can be gleaned from conversation, and they were full of it, chattering away while I was asking questions, I came to a number of conclusions that day.

Would you say Miss Marple was helpful?

Miss Marple wasn’t even there when the murder took place so I was a little frustrated with her ‘interference’ as I saw it. But as the investigation progressed, I came to realise Miss Marple and I had the same goals, both of us have been around the block as they say and know what to look for in a crime investigation. Along with Mellors, the three of us made quite a team.

Tell us a little about the clues you have uncovered?

Ah, well that would be family photos, ducks, aspirin and above all, biscuits.

Over to you now Miss Blacklock. Surely you must have been surprised by the announcement in the gazette?

Well, it was Friday 13th so I assumed it was a prank. I have my niece and nephew Julia and Patrick staying with me. They have such a quarrelsome relationship, always bickering, I thought perhaps one of them had submitted the notice to the newspaper.

You said you have quite a houseful? Who exactly was staying with you?

Julia and Patrick, as I have already explained. A young widow called Phillipa Haymes who was working for my neighbour at Dayas Hall as an assistant gardener, she’s a trained horticulturist you know. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a cottage available for her in the grounds of the Hall so I offered to put her up with me. I love to have young people around me.

And what about Miss Bunner, was she staying with you too?

You mean Bunny? Oh of course, dear Bunny, my oldest friend, I’ve known her since childhood. In that case it must be very shocking, a murder taking place in your home? It’s very shocking indeed. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before and of course I feel very sorry for the family of that poor young man.

Apparently, there is reason to believe that you were the target, how do you feel about that?

I find it very hard to understand as I have no enemies that I can think of – maybe it was someone to whom I owe a dinner invitation?

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