4.50 from Paddington

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4.50 from Paddington
AgathaChristie 450FromPaddington.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Agatha Christie
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Crime novel
Published 1957 (Collins Crime Club)
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 256 pp. (first edition, hardcover)
Preceded by The Burden
Followed by Ordeal by Innocence

4.50 from Paddington is a detective fiction novel by Agatha Christie, first published in November 1957. The 1961 film Murder, She Said was based on it. This work was also published in the United States as "What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw."

Summary[edit]

Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy has come from a shopping expedition to visit her old friend Jane Marple for Christmas. On the way, her train passes another train running parallel to her. Then, a blind in one of the compartments flies up and she sees a man with his back to her strangling a woman. She reports it to a ticket collector who does not believe her. When arriving at Miss Marple's cottage, she tells all to her. Mrs McGillicuddy describes the woman as wearing a fur coat and with blonde hair. Only Miss Marple believes her story as there is no evidence of wrongdoing. The first task is to ascertain where the body could have been hidden. Comparison of the facts of the murder with the train timetable and the local geography lead to the grounds of Rutherford Hall as the only possible location: it is shielded from the surrounding community, the railway abuts the grounds, and so on. Lucy Eyelesbarrow, a young professional housekeeper and an acquaintance of Miss Marple, is sent undercover to Rutherford Hall.

Josiah Crackenthorpe, purveyor of tea biscuits, built Rutherford Hall in 1884. His son, Luther, now a semi-invalid widower, had displayed spendthrift qualities in his youth. To preserve the family fortune, Josiah has left his considerable fortune in trust, the income from which is to be paid to Luther for life. After Luther's death, the capital is to be divided equally among Luther's children. Luther Crackenthorpe is merely the trustee of Rutherford Hall and hence, according to the will, cannot sell the house. The house itself will be inherited by Luther Crackenthorpe's eldest surviving son or his issue.

The eldest of Luther Crackenthorpe's children, Edmund, died during World War II. His youngest daughter, Edith, died four years before. The remaining heirs to the estate are Cedric, an Ibiza-based bohemian painter and lover of women; Harold, a cold and stuffy banker; Alfred, the black sheep of the family who is known to engage in shady business dealings; Emma Crackenthorpe, a spinster who lives at home and takes care of Luther; and Alexander, son of Edith. The complement of characters is completed by Bryan Eastley, Alexander's father; James Stoddart-West, a school friend of Alexander; and Dr Quimper, who looks after Luther's health and is secretly in love with Emma.

Lucy uses golf practice as an excuse to search the grounds. She discovers some fur from a woman's fur coat. Then she discovers a cheap compact. Lucy takes these to show to Miss Marple, who states that she believes the murderer knew all about Rutherford Hall and its geographical location. He removed the body from the embankment where it had fallen clear away from the line, drove a car outside the grounds at night and hid the body. Lucy eventually finds the woman's body hidden in a sarcophagus in the old stables among Luther's collection of dubious antiques. But who is she?

The police eventually identify the victim's clothing as being of French manufacture. Emma tells the police that she had received a letter claiming to be from Martine, a French girl whom her brother Edmund had wanted to marry. He had written about Martine and their impending marriage days before his death in the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940. The letter purporting to be from Martine claims that she was pregnant when Edmund died and that she now wishes their son to have all of the advantages to which his parentage should entitle him. The police conclude that the body in the sarcophagus is that of Martine but this proves not to be the case, when Lady Stoddart-West, mother of James Stoddart-West, reveals that she is Martine. Although she and Edmund had intended to marry, Edmund died before they could do so and she later married an SOE officer and settled in England.

The whole family takes ill suddenly (apart from Bryan and Alexander who had gone away for a few days) and Alfred dies. Later, the curry made by Lucy on the fateful day is found to contain arsenic. Some days later, Harold, after returning home to London, receives a delivery of some tablets that appear to be the same as the sleeping pills prescribed to him by Dr Quimper, who had told him he need not take them any more. The box that they come in is actually the box for Emma's sedative pills that have been swapped for something else. They prove to be poisoned with aconite and Harold dies. One by one, the heirs to Josiah's fortune are being eliminated.

Lucy arranges an afternoon-tea visit to Rutherford Hall for Miss Marple, and Mrs McGillicuddy is also invited. Mrs McGillicuddy is instructed by Miss Marple to ask to use the lavatory as soon as they arrive, but is not told why. Miss Marple is eating a fish-paste sandwich when she suddenly begins to choke. It seems she has a fish bone stuck in her throat. Dr Quimper moves to assist her. Mrs McGillicuddy enters the room at that moment, sees the doctor's hands at Miss Marple's throat, and cries out, "But that's him – that's the man on the train!"

Miss Marple had correctly concluded that her friend would recognise the real murderer if she saw him again in a similar pose. It transpires that the murdered woman's name was Anna Stravinska, a French ballet dancer who had been married to Dr Quimper many years earlier. A devout Catholic, she refused to divorce him, so he murdered her to be free to marry Emma and inherit Josiah's fortune, once he had eliminated Emma's brothers. Dr Quimper actually poisoned the cocktail jug and added the arsenic to the sample of curry he took before he gave it to the military-police-detectives. He then added a second dose of arsenic to Alfred's medicine or tea. Alfred's heart and system were weakened by alcohol and arsenic. When he murdered Harold, he used the box that held Emma's sedative tablets and swapped them for aconite tablets which killed Harold. Miss Marple then tells Mrs McGillicuddy that Lucy will probably marry Cedric or Bryan and that Emma will get over the doctor.

Characters[edit]

  • Jane Marple – the detective, protagonist.
  • Lucy Eyelesbarrow – Miss Marple's proxy at the Hall, serving as housekeeper-cum-spy.
  • Elspeth McGillicuddy – the witness to the murder, a friend of Miss Marple's.
  • Luther Crackenthorpe – elderly widower and owner of Rutherford Hall, very selfish with money.
  • Cedric Crackenthorpe – Luther's son; a bohemian painter and lover of women.
  • Harold Crackenthorpe – Luther's son; a cold and stuffy banker.
  • Alfred Crackenthorpe – Luther's son; wartime spy and a sort of gentle con artist.
  • Emma Crackenthorpe – Luther's daughter who lives at home and takes care of him.
  • Bryan Eastley – husband of the late Edith Crackenthorpe, Luther's daughter.
  • Alexander Eastley – Edith & Bryan's adolescent son.
  • Dr Quimper – Luther's general practitioner.
  • Detective-Inspector Dermot Craddock – Godson of Sir Henry Clithering (A Murder is Announced, The Thirteen Problems)

Capital punishment[edit]

This book gives voice to what apparently were Agatha Christie's own personal views on the death penalty and capital punishment[citation needed] when Miss Marple states, "I am really very, very sorry that they have abolished capital punishment because I do feel that if there is anyone who ought to hang, it's Dr Quimper." Capital punishment in Britain was abolished in 1969 (in 1973 for Northern Ireland), but there were many periods when the death penalty was temporarily suspended by the government while Acts of Parliament for abolition were pending. One of these "temporary abolitions" happened in February 1956 but ended in July 1957. So, the death penalty had been in moratorium when Christie wrote 4.50 From Paddington but was reinstated about the time the book came out.

Literary significance and reception[edit]

Philip John Stead's review in The Times Literary Supplement (29 November 1957) concluded that "Miss Christie never harrows her readers, being content to intrigue and amuse them."[1]

The novel was reviewed in The Times edition of 5 December 1957 when it stated, "Mrs Christie's latest is a model detective story; one keeps turning back to verify clues, and not one is irrelevant or unfair." The review concluded, "Perhaps there is a corpse or two too many, but there is never a dull moment."[2]

Fellow crime writer Anthony Berkeley Cox, writing under the nom de plume of Francis Iles, reviewed the novel in 6 December 1957 issue of The Guardian, in which he confessed to being disappointed with the work: "I have only pity for those poor souls who cannot enjoy the sprightly stories of Agatha Christie; but though sprightliness is not the least of this remarkable writer's qualities, there is another that we look for in her, and that is detection: genuine, steady, logical detection, taking us step by step nearer to the heart of the mystery. Unfortunately it is that quality that is missing in 4.50 from Paddington. The police never seem to find out a single thing, and even Miss Marples (sic) lies low and say nuffin' to the point until the final dramatic exposure. There is the usual small gallery of interesting and perfectly credible characters and nothing could be easier to read. But please, Mrs Christie, a little more of that incomparable detection next time."[3]

Robert Barnard: "Another locomotive one – murder seen as two trains pass each other in the same direction. Later settles down into a good old family murder. Contains one of Christie's few sympathetic independent women. Miss Marple apparently solves the crime by divine guidance, for there is very little in the way of clues or logical deduction."[4]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[edit]

Film[edit]

Main article: Murder, She Said

The book was made into a 1961 movie starring Margaret Rutherford in the first of her four appearances as Miss Marple. It was the first Miss Marple film.

BBC 'Miss Marple' Series[edit]

Further information: Miss Marple (TV series)

The BBC broadly follows the original plot with its 1987 version, starring Joan Hickson, who had appeared in the Rutherford film as Mrs. Kidder. Departures from the original story include the absence of the family being poisoned. Alfred is still alive at the end, though suffering from a terminal illness that Dr. Quimper apparently misdiagnosed deliberately. As in the earlier film version, Harold is murdered in what appears to be a hunting accident. It is also revealed that Harold had a deep passion for dancing. Also Anna Stravinka's real name is "Martine Isabella Perrel". The other major departure is at the end, where Miss Marple unambiguously opines that Lucy Eyelesbarrow will marry Bryan Eastley, merely one of the possibilities Miss Marple suggests in the novel.

ITV Marple Series[edit]

Further information: Agatha Christie's Marple

Another version was made by ITV for the series Marple in 2004 starring Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple and a cast that included David Warner, John Hannah, Griff Rhys Jones, Amanda Holden, Ben Daniels, and Pam Ferris. It has been shown in the US under the title "What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw". It deviates from the original by making the character of Dr Quimper far more sympathetic even though he is still a murderer. There is no mention of his being cold blooded (his crimes are committed solely for love, not money) as there is in the earlier film version; and Miss Marple does not comment, as she does in the novel, that if there is one person who ought to be hanged it is Quimper. This version also includes the wholly invented character of Inspector Tom Campbell, an old friend of Miss Marple's, who presides over the case and provides Bryan with a rival for Lucy's affections. The way Miss Marple reveals Dr Quimper as the murderer is also changed to take place on a train with Mrs McGillcuddy witnessing it from a passing train, where the communication cords are pulled, Tom arrests Quimper, Mrs McGillcuddy switches to their train, and Miss Marple reveals all. Quimper is depicted as being friend of Tom's, thus upsetting him when he arrests him. Unlike the BBC version it is strongly implied Lucy will marry Tom instead of Bryan (who in this version is portrayed as American), due to Bryan being in love with Edith. Dr Quimper's first name is changed to "David". In the 1961 film it had been "Paul", and in the 1987 film it had been "John". In the novel and the other film adaptations, Edmund is depicted having been killed at the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940. In this version, he is killed by a U-Boat in the Atlantic in December 1941 and he is "lost at sea". Edith "Edie" dies in childbirth. Edmund, Edith and Agnes, (Luther's wife) are all actually seen on-screen for the first time! Anna Stravinska's name is a nickname and her real one is "Suzanne Bellaine". Martine is also genuinely married to Edmund and met all of the family previously where she was sexually assaulted by Harold (who is not murdered at all). Also, Josiah was renamed Marcus. Miss Marple is seen reading Dashiel Hammett's "Woman in the Dark and Other Stories", providing an intertextual detail that suggests some of Miss Marple's detective insights come from her reading of classic murder fiction as well as her shrewd understanding of human nature.

Le crime est notre affaire[edit]

Le crime est notre affaire is a French film directed by Pascal Thomas, released in 2008. Named after the book Partners in Crime, and, like the book, starring Tommy and Tuppence as the detective characters, the film is in fact an adaptation of 4.50 From Paddington. The locations and names differ, but the story is essentially the same. The film is a sequel to Mon petit doigt m'a dit..., a 2004 film by Pascal Thomas adapted from By the Pricking of My Thumbs. Both are set in Savoy in the present day.

Video game adaptation[edit]

On Jun 17, 2010, I-play released a downloadable hidden object game based on 4:50 from Paddington (see the external links). Dialogue interspersed with the hidden object puzzles follows the plot of the original story. Items mentioned in the dialogue are among those hidden in each round. At three points during play the player is asked to hypothesize on the identity of the murderer, but as in the novel there is little in the way of relevant evidence. Unlike the games based on Evil Under the Sun, Murder on the Orient Express, and And Then There Were None, this does not include any actual detection and unlike the latter two does not add an additional character to represent the player.

Publication history[edit]

  • 1957, Collins Crime Club (London), 4 November 1957, Hardcover, 256 pp.
  • 1957, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), November 1957, Hardcover, 192 pp.
  • 1958, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, 185 pp.
  • 1960, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 190 pp.
  • 1965, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 391 pp.
  • 1974, Pan Books, Paperback, 220 pp.
  • 2006, Marple Facsimile edition (Facsimile of 1962 UK first edition), 3 January 2006, Hardcover, ISBN 0-00-720854-5

In the UK the novel was first serialised in the weekly magazine John Bull in five abridged instalments from 5 October (volume 102 number 2675) to 2 November 1957 (volume 102 number 2679) with illustrations by KJ Petts.[5]

The novel was first serialised in the US in the Chicago Tribune in thirty six instalments from Sunday 27 October to Saturday 7 December 1957 under title Eyewitness to Death.

An abridged version of the novel was also published in 28 December 1957 issue of the Star Weekly Complete Novel, a Toronto newspaper supplement, under the title Eye Witness to Death with a cover illustration by Maxine McCaffrey.

International titles[edit]

  • Bulgarian: 16:50 от Падингтън /16:50 ot Padingtan/ (16:50 from Paddington)
  • Czech: Vlak z Paddingtonu (The Train from Paddington)
  • Dutch: Trein 16.50 (The 4.50 Train)
  • Estonian: Paddington 16.50
  • Finnish: Paddingtonista 16.50
  • German: 16 Uhr 50 ab Paddington (4.50 from Paddington)
  • Hungarian: Paddington 16.50
  • Indonesian: Kereta 4.50 dari Paddington (4.50 Train from Paddington)
  • Norwegian: 4.50 fra Paddington (4.50 from Paddington)
  • Polish: 4.50 z Paddington (4.50 from Paddington)
  • Portuguese (Portugal): O Estranho Caso da Velha Curiosa (The Strange Case of the Curious Old Woman), O Comboio das 16h50 (The 4.50pm Train)
  • Portuguese (Brazil): A Testemunha Ocular do Crime (The Eyewitness)
  • Russian: В 4.50 из Паддингтона (4.50 from Paddington)
  • Spanish: "El tren de las 4.50" (The 4.50 train)
  • Turkish: 16.50 treni (The train of 16.50)

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Times Literary Supplement (News International): 725. 29 November 1957. 
  2. ^ The Times. 5 December 1957. p. 13. 
  3. ^ The Guardian. 6 December 1957. p. 14. 
  4. ^ Barnard, Robert (1990). A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie (Revised ed.). Fontana Books. p. 194. ISBN 0-00-637474-3. 
  5. ^ Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers – Colindale). Shelfmark: NPL LON LD116.

External links[edit]