4.50 from Paddington

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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."


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 ("Edie"), died four years before the novel begins. 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 was a French ballet dancer known as "Anna Stravinska", 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 and Inspector Craddock that old Mr Crackenthorpe may die soon, that Emma will get over the doctor, and that there will soon be wedding bells for Lucy - though she refuses to be drawn on the identity of the groom.


  • 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. Craddock had previously featured in A Murder is Announced and The Thirteen Problems)
  • Train Conductor

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]



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 Isabelle Perrault". 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 suggested by Craddock 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, 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, (both the 1961 and 1987 films invented a first name too), while his character was changed to be far more sympathetic than he is in the novel. Despite being the murderer, he is not mentioned as being cold blooded: 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 not killed with poisoned tablets.
  • Both the motive for killing Alfred, and the method of his murder, were changed - Alfred had spotted Quimper planting a false clue on the grounds of the Hall, knowing that the body of his wife would be found eventually. When Alexander and James find it and show it to the family, Alfred suspected Quimper was up to something and decided to blackmail him, boasting to Lucy just before dinner that he was due to receive money. When the family fall ill at dinner by a small dose of arsenic, Alfred, weakened as a result, is later killed in his bed by a fatal injection from Quimper; as he is being killed, Alfred cried out his killer's name, which Quimper made certain was misconstrued as him calling for the doctor's help, shortly after appearing to have run back up the stairs to Alfred's bedroom when Emma rushed out to the commotion being created.
  • The novel's Inspector Dermot Craddock is loosely adapted into a new character, Inspector Tom Campbell, an old friend of Miss Marple. Like Craddock, he takes charge of the police investigation. Where the novel ends with Miss Marple obliquely hinting that Lucy will marry Craddock, the adaption makes Campbell a more overt competitor against Bryan and Cedric for Lucy's affections, and the 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, in which 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.
  • While both the novel and the other film adaptations depict Edmund having been killed at the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940, in this adaptation he is killed by a U-Boat in the Atlantic in December 1941 and considered to be lost at sea. In addition, Edith's cause of death, not given in the novel, is explained as occurring during childbirth.
  • Edmund, Edith, and Agnes (Luther's wife), are all seen on-screen for the first time.
  • Anna Stravinska's true name is given as Suzanne Bellaine, "Anna Stravinska" being a stage name (in the novel, it is indicated that it is a stage name, but no real name is given). Lucy doesn't use an excuse to search for her body, and finds it within a mausoleum on the Hall's grounds, purely by chance.
  • In the adaption, Edmund did indeed marry Martine, and brought her home to meet all his family. The visit is marred by Harold, who sexually assaults her.

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.

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. 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.

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)
  • 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)


  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]