While on vacation at a resort hotel in the West Indies, Miss Marple correctly suspects that the apparently natural death of a retired British major is actually the work of a murderer planning yet another killing.
A friend of Miss Marple's sees a woman being strangled in a passing train. When police cannot find a body and doubt the story, Miss Marple enlists professional housekeeper, Lucy Eyelesbarrow, to go undercover.
A murder is announced in the Chipping Cleghorne Gazette to take place on October 5th, 7 PM at Little Paddocks cottage. The people living there, retired secretary Miss Blacklock, her companion Miss Bunner, Miss Blacklock's two distant cousins, Patrick and Julia and Mrs.Haymes, a gardener, have no idea what the ad is about. Several villagers arrive at the house under the false pretenses of "just walking by" or "Was in the neighborhood". At exactly 7 PM, the lights go out, and a man enters the room, and shines a flashlight in everyone's face. Then shots are heard. As the lights come back on, they find the man who entered the room has been shot. Miss Marple must unmask the killer but soon more murders turn up. Written by
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Clever Christie story is given top-notch treatment...
A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED in the Chipping Cleghorne Gazette at the very start of this clever Christie tale about an announcement in the local paper that sends several people to Little Paddocks cottage, just curious observers who wonder if anything actually will happen as predicted ominously in the quaint cottage shared by Letitia Blacklock (URSULA HOWELLS) and her old friend Dora Bunner (RENEE ASHERSON). Indeed, when the lights go out that evening, a man enters and a gunshot sound alarms the gathering, only to find that the intruder himself is the murder victim and Miss Blacklock has a flesh wound which makes her look like the intended victim.
The storyline soon involves a bunch of others and it becomes clear that nothing is really what it seems as to the identities of several people and the purpose of the murder scene. This is one of the most enjoyable of all the Agatha Christie books that I read years ago at a time when I was going through a number of her books, as a mystery fan. I always found this particular story one of special interest, and could easily have pictured Olivia de Havilland as Letitia Blacklock (what a name!!), the kind of role that would have been perfect for her at a time when she was playing more difficult roles.
However, the casting here is highly satisfactory with most of the British cast doing well in their parts--notably SAMANTHA BOND, SIMON SHEPHERD and SYLVIA SYMS.
This was later remade for the series starring GERALDINE McEWAN, all of which are less well regarded than the series here with JOAN HICKSON as Miss Marple. Hickson has a pensive, inquisitive look that makes us believe she is slowly coming to realize the truth, while McEwan is only able to suggest a sweet little old lady with a sly look, but never intelligent enough to unravel the mystery.
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