The central question at the core of the novella is how the death of Santiago Nasar was foreseen, yet no one tried to stop it. The narrator explores the circumstances surrounding his death by asking the villagers who were present during his murder and exploring the seeming contradiction of a murder that was predicted in advance. The book explores the morality of the village's collective responsibility in the murder of Santiago Nasar.
Unlike the traditional detective novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold doesn't investigate the murder, which is made clear from the first sentence. Instead, the true mystery is the violation of Ángela Vicario.
Another key motif is the use of omens and premonitions (keeping in the theme of "foretelling"). The weather, dreams, and nature all provide evidence of what is to come in the novella.