Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
|Published||1957 (Collins Crime Club)|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|Pages||256 (first edition, hardcover)|
|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. 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.
Reviewers at the time generally liked the novel, but would have liked more direct involvement of Miss Marple, and less consideration of her failing strength, using others to act for her. A later review by Barnard found the story short on clues, but favorably noted Lucy Eyelesbarrow as an independent woman character.
The 1961 film Murder, She Said was based on this novel as were several television programs.
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 whilst being watched taking the tablets by Lady Alice, his wife.
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.
The UK title 4.50 from Paddington, specifies a train time departing from Paddington station, 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 (nowadays it would be 16.50). The London railway 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.
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."
Fellow crime writer Anthony Berkeley Cox, writing under the nom de plume of Francis Iles, reviewed the novel in the 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."
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."
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.
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.
An abridged version of the novel was also published in the 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.
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.
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 from 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 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.
TV Asahi adapted the novel in 2018 starring Yuki Amami and Atsuko Maeda, with the title Two Nights Drama Special: 4.50 from Paddington - Night Express Train Murder (Japanese: ?4?50) as the first night. The second night was The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side.
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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.