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
Genre Crime novel
Published 1957 (Collins Crime Club)
Media type Print (hardback and paperback)
Pages 256 (first edition, hardcover)
OCLC 2743158
LC Class PR6005.H66 F65
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 by Collins Crime Club. This work was published in the United States at the same time as What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw!, by Dodd, Mead.[1] The novel was published in serial form before the book was released in each nation, and under different titles. The US edition retailed at $2.95.[1]

Reviewers at the time generally liked the novel,[2][3] but would have liked more direct involvement of Miss Marple, and less consideration of her failing strength, using others to act for her.[4] A later review by Barnard found the story short on clues, but favorably noted Lucy Eyelesbarrow as an independent woman character.[5]

The 1961 film Murder, She Said was based on this novel. as were several television programs.

Plot summary[edit]

Mrs Elspeth McGillicuddy is on her way from a shopping expedition to visit her old friend Jane Marple for Christmas. Her train passes another train running parallel and in the same direction as her train. Then, a blind in one compartment flies up and she sees a man with his back to her strangling a woman. She reports it to a sceptical ticket collector who passes the report for investigation. When arriving at Miss Marple's cottage, she tells all to her. Mrs McGillicuddy describes the dying woman as having blonde hair and wearing a fur coat and the man as tall and dark, though she saw only his back. Miss Marple believes her story, knowing her friend to be trustworthy in description. With no report of a body found in the next day's news, Miss Marple sets out to determine where the body is. With a good map and several rides on the trains to feel the effect of a sharp curve on standing passengers, she determines that the body is on the grounds of Rutherford Hall. Miss Marple sends Lucy Eyelesbarrow, a young professional cook and housekeeper, to work at Rutherford Hall and find the body.

Luther Crackenthorpe is a semi-invalid widower who lives in Rutherford Hall with his daughter Emma. Luther's father wrote a will that left his property for his eldest grandson, not liking his son. Luther receives the income for life. After Luther's death, the capital is to be divided equally among Luther's surviving children, not unlike a tontine pension. The share of cash rises to the living children as each sibling dies before their father dies.

Edmund, the firstborn son, died during World War II. Youngest daughter Edith ("Edie"), died four years before the novel begins, leaving a son, Alexander. The remaining children are Cedric, an Ibiza-based bohemian painter; Harold, a married banker; Alfred, who engages in shady business dealings; and Emma. Others at the family home include Alexander's father Bryan Eastley, and Alexander's school friend James Stoddart-West, and local physician Dr Quimper, who looks after Luther but is in love with Emma.

Lucy uses golf practice as a way to search the grounds. She discovers fur from a woman's fur coat caught on a bush. Then she finds a cheap compact. Lucy takes these to Miss Marple, who believes the murderer knew all about Rutherford Hall. He removed the body from the embankment where it had fallen away from the railway, drove a car outside the grounds at night and hid the body. Lucy finds the woman's body hidden in a sarcophagus in the old stables containing Luther's collection of dubious antiques. Who was she?

The police, led by Inspector Craddock, identify the victim's clothing as purchased in Paris. Emma tells the police of two letters, one from her brother shortly before his death in the retreat to Dunkirk, and another received a few weeks before the woman's body is found. Her brother said he would marry a woman named Martine. The recent letter seemed to be from Martine, wanting to connect with the family of her son's father. There was not a second letter, nor a meeting with Martine. The police conclude that the body in the sarcophagus is that of Martine until Lady Stoddart-West, mother of James, reveals her identity. She confirms that Edmund's letter spoke of her, but he died before they could marry. She spoke up only because her son told her of the letter supposedly from Martine.

The whole family, apart from the absent Bryan and Alexander, takes ill suddenly, 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 tablets from Dr Quimper, who had told him not to take more, yet sends him more. Harold takes them; poisoned with aconitine, Harold dies.

Lucy arranges an afternoon-tea visit to Rutherford Hall for Miss Marple and Mrs McGillicuddy. Miss Marple instructs Mrs McGillicuddy to ask to use the lavatory as soon as they arrive. Miss Marple is eating a fish-paste sandwich when she begins to choke on a fish bone. 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 realised that her friend would recognise the real murderer if she saw him again in a similar pose. The dead woman was Quimper's wife, who would not divorce him so he killed her to be free to marry Emma. After the Quimpers separated, she joined a ballet troupe as Anna Stravinska. Quimper's scheme grew to killing Emma's brothers, so the inheritance need not be shared.

He poisoned the cocktail jug, not the dinner, and added arsenic to the sample of curry he took before he gave it in for testing. He added a second dose of arsenic to Alfred's tea. He sent the poisoned tablets to Harold. Miss Marple then tells Mrs McGillicuddy and Inspector Craddock that Luther Crackenthorpe may die soon, that Emma will get over the doctor, and that there will be wedding bells for Lucy – though she refuses to be drawn on the identity of the groom. It is obvious to Miss Marple.

Characters[edit]

  • Miss Marple: detective and protagonist.
  • Elspeth McGillicuddy: the witness to the murder, a friend of Miss Marple.
  • Lucy Eyelesbarrow: Miss Marple's younger proxy at the hall. She is a skilled cook and energetic housekeeper with a good reputation and excellent client list.
  • David West: He works at British Railways and aids Miss Marple in knowing which trains might have passed the one Mrs McGillicuddy rode when she witnessed the murder. He is the second son of Miss Marple's nephew Raymond West.
  • Luther Crackenthorpe: elderly widower and owner of Rutherford Hall, close with money since his own father died.
  • Cedric Crackenthorpe: Luther's son, a bohemian painter living in Ibiza. As the eldest surviving son, he will inherit Rutherford Hall and surrounding lands when his father dies.
  • Harold Crackenthorpe: Luther's son, married banker in London, with no children. Poisoning victim.
  • Alfred Crackenthorpe: Luther's son, with no regular employment, on the edge of illegal activities. Poisoning victim.
  • Emma Crackenthorpe: Luther's daughter who lives at home and takes care of him.
  • Bryan Eastley: widower of Edith Crackenthorpe, Luther's youngest daughter.
  • Alexander Eastley: son of Edith and Bryan, who comes to Rutherford Hall on school break.
  • James Stoddart-West: school friend of Alexander.
  • Lady Stoddart-West: mother of Alexander, and war time fiancée of the late Edmund Crackenthorpe.
  • Dr Quimper: Luther's general practitioner. and a murderer.
  • Detective-Inspector Dermot Craddock: godson of Sir Henry Clithering. (Craddock previously was featured in A Murder Is Announced and The Thirteen Problems.)
  • Armand Dessin: Inspector at the Paris Prefecture who assists Craddock in the investigation. Specifically, he names a missing person, a good Catholic woman who left her ballet troupe in England, and has not been seen since by those at the Ballet Maritski.
  • Anna Stravinska: Dancer in the Ballet Maritsky in Paris, which toured in England for six weeks befpre Christmas. She left the troupe in England on December 19. Stage name of Quimper's wife, who died on December 20 by strangulation.
  • Madame Joliet: Director of the Ballet Maritski in Paris.

The Title[edit]

The UK title. 4.50 from Paddington, specifies a train time departing from Paddington station in London, a major station in central London. The train is identified by the time it is scheduled to leave that station, at ten minutes before five in the afternoon. In British style, the time is written as 4.50. The London train stations were perhaps not considered well known by the US publisher, and thus the title was changed to What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw!, which also refers to that moment on the train, for the US market.

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."[2]

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."[3]

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 says 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."[4]

Robert Barnard said of this novel that it was "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."[5]\

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.[6]

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.[7]

The novel was published in the US under the title What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw! by Dodd Mead and Co. The UK version was to be titled 4.54 from Paddington until the last minute, when the title and text references were changed to 4.50 from Paddington. This change was not communicated to Dodd Mead until after the book was being printed, so the text references to the time show 4:54 rather than 4:50.[8]

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.

Adaptations[edit]

Film in 1961[edit]

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 1987[edit]

The BBC broadly follows the original plot with its 1987 version, starring Joan Hickson, who had appeared in the Rutherford film as Mrs Kidder. There are several changes:

  • The poisoning of the family is absent.
  • Alfred is still alive at the end, though suffering from a terminal illness that Dr Quimper apparently misdiagnosed deliberately.
  • Like the 1961 film, Harold is murdered in what appears to be a hunting accident, and not by poisoned tablets, because Dr Quimper suspected Harold knew who the victim was, as Harold had a deep passion for the dance.
  • Anna Stravinka's real name is revealed as "Martine Isabelle Perrault" (in the novel, her real name is unknown). Thus the twist where James Stoddard-West's mother is Martine is deleted.
  • Inspector Craddock is replaced by Inspector Duckham and recurring characters in the television series, Inspector Slack and Sergeant Lake.
  • At the end, Miss Marple unambiguously opines that Lucy Eyelesbarrow will marry Bryan Eastley.

ITV Marple Series 2004[edit]

ITV adapted the novel for the series Marple in 2004 starring Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple, with the title What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw! used when it was shown in the US. The adaptation contains several changes in it from the novel:

  • Dr Quimper's first name, not mentioned in the novel, is given as David. His character was changed to be more sympathetic than he is in the novel. His motive for murdering his wife is his love for Emma rather than his desire for the Crackenthorpe inheritance.
  • Only two murders occur – Quimper's wife, and Alfred. Harold is still alive at the end.
  • Both the motive for killing Alfred, and the method of his murder, were changed. Alfred spotted Quimper planting a false clue on the grounds of the Hall, knowing that the body of his wife would be found. When Alexander and James show the clue to the family, Alfred decides to blackmail Quimper, boasting to Lucy just that he is due to receive money. When the family fall ill at dinner by a small dose of arsenic, Alfred is later killed in his bed by a fatal injection from Quimper; as he is being killed, Alfred cries out his killer's name. Quimper makes certain this is misconstrued as him calling for the doctor's help.
  • In this version, Alfred is the eldest son after Edmund, and will inherit the Hall; Harold is the second-eldest son (He becomes next-in-line to inherit the Hall after Alfred dies) and Cedric is the youngest son.
  • The name of Luther's father is changed from Josiah to Marcus and he manufactured confectionery rather than tea biscuits.
  • The novel's Inspector Dermot Craddock is replaced by Inspector Tom Campbell, an old friend of Miss Marple. This adaption ends with Lucy rejecting the two Crackenthorpe men in favour of the inspector.
  • Bryan is British in the novel, but American in the adaption.
  • The way Miss Marple reveals Dr Quimper as the murderer was changed; it take place on a train with Mrs McGillcuddy witnessing it from a passing train. When he is exposed, the communication cords on both trains are pulled, before Tom arrests Quimper whilst Mrs McGillcuddy switches to their train. Miss Marple then reveals all in her denouement aboard the train.
  • Edmund is killed by a U-Boat in the Atlantic in December 1941 and considered to be lost at sea. In addition, Edith is described as dying during childbirth.
  • Anna Stravinska's true name is given as Suzanne Bellaine. Lucy finds the body within a mausoleum on the Hall's grounds, purely by chance.
  • In the adaptation, Edmund did marry Martine, and brought her home to meet all his family. The visit is marred by Harold, who sexually assaults her.
  • In the adaption, Harold Crackenthorpe's wife, Lady Alice, is given a much bigger role than in the novel.

In addition to these changes, Miss Marple is seen reading Dashiel Hammett's "Woman in the Dark and Other Stories", providing an inter-textual 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.[citation needed]

Computer game[edit]

On 17 June 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. The player finds locations on the map by textual clues, which makes the map a hidden object scene, too. 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. This is the 4th in a series of Oberon Games' hidden object games based on Agatha Christie's novels, the first three were based on Death on the Nile, Peril at End House, and Dead Man's Folly.

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)
  • Slovak: Vlak z Paddingtonu (The Train from Paddington)
  • Spanish: "El tren de las 4.50" (The 4.50 train)
  • Turkish: 16.50 treni (The train of 16.50)
  • Arabic: "قطار 4.50 من بادنغتون" (The 4.50 train from Paddington)
  • Latvian: "4.50 no Pedingtonas" (At 4.50 from Paddington)
  • Japanese: "パディントン発4時50分" (4:50 from Paddington)
  • Chinese: "殺人一瞬間" (In the moment when murder)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Marcus, J S (May 2007). "American Tribute to Agatha Christie: The Golden Years: 1953 - 1967". Retrieved 5 August 2018. 
  2. ^ a b "Review". The Times Literary Supplement: 725. 29 November 1957. 
  3. ^ a b "Review". The Times. 5 December 1957. p. 13. 
  4. ^ a b Iles, Francis (6 December 1957). "Review". The Guardian. p. 14. 
  5. ^ a b Barnard, Robert (1990). A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie (Revised ed.). Fontana Books. p. 194. ISBN 0-00-637474-3. 
  6. ^ Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers – Colindale). Shelfmark: NPL LON LD116.
  7. ^ "Eyewitness to Death". Chicago Tribune. 3 November 1957. Retrieved 5 August 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)). 
  8. ^ Bunson, Matthew (September 2000). The Complete Christie: An Agatha Christie Encyclopedia. Simon and Schuster. p. 63-64. ISBN 978-0-671-02831-2. Retrieved 5 August 2018. 

External links[edit]