4.50 from Paddington


4.50 from Paddington
4.50 from Paddington  
Facsimile of first edition cover
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author(s) Agatha Christie
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Crime novel
Publisher Collins Crime Club
Publication date 4 November 1957; 54 years ago (1957-November-04)
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 256 pp. (first edition, hardcover)
Preceded by The Burden
Followed by Ordeal by Innocence

4.50 from Paddington[Note 1] is detective fiction novel by Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on 4 November 1957,[1] and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in the same month under the title of What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!.[2][3] The UK edition retailed at twelve shillings and sixpence (12/6)[1] and the US edition at $2.95.[3] A paperback edition by Pocket Books in 1963 changed the title again to Murder, She Said[2] to tie in with the feature film release. The novel features Miss Marple.

Contents

Summary

Elspeth McGillicuddy, an old friend of Jane Marple, comes to meet Jane from Scotland. While travelling by train, Elspeth sees a murder occurring in a train on a parallel track. Since she could not have seen the victim or the killer and she is an old woman, the police ignore her. Only Jane believes her, but can she prove anything when there is not even a dead body present?

Plot

Elspeth McGillicuddy has come from Scotland to visit her old friend Jane Marple. On the way, she sees a woman strangled in a passing train. 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 Mrs Marple, is sent undercover to the Rutherford Hall.

Josiah Crackenthorpe, purveyor of tea biscuits, built Rutherford Hall. 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 cannot sell the house as per the will. 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, a bohemian painter and lover of women who lives on Ibiza; Harold, a cold and stuffy banker; Alfred (Flash Alf), the black sheep of the family and a man 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; and Dr. Quimper, who looks after Luther's health and is secretly romantically involved with Emma.

Lucy uses golf practice as an excuse to search the grounds. She eventually finds the woman's body hidden in a sarcophagus in the old stables amongst 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 has received a letter claiming to be from Martine, a French girl whom her brother 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, a schoolfriend of Alexander's, 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, settling in England.

The whole family 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 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. They prove to be poisoned 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 fishbone 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 had been married to Dr Quimper many years earlier. Being a devout Catholic, she refused to divorce him, so he decided to murder her so as to be free to marry Emma, thus inheriting Josiah's fortune, once he had eliminated the other heirs.

Characters

  • 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 spiv and a sort of genteel 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.
  • Dermot Craddock – Detective-Inspector from Scotland Yard (and godson of Sir Henry Clithering of A Murder is Announced and The Thirteen Problems)

Major themes

This book has Miss Marple give voice to Agatha Christie's view on the death penalty when she remarks, "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 not finally abolished until 1969 (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

Philip John Stead's review in The Times Literary Supplement of 29 November 1957, concluded, "Miss Christie never harrows her readers, being content to intrigue and amuse them."[4]

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."[5]

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 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."[6]

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 women. Miss Marple apparently solves the crime by divine guidance, for there is very little in the way of clues or logical deduction."[7]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

Film

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

BBC 'Miss Marple' 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 any food poisoning. 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. 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

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. Unlike the BBC version it is strongly implied Lucy will marry Tom instead of Bryan. Also, in this version Martine actually was once in the family household where she was raped by Harold (who is not murdered at all).

Le crime est notre affaire

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.

  • Cast
    • Catherine Frot - Prudence Beresford, based on Tuppence Beresford
    • André Dussollier - Bélisaire Beresford, based on Tommy Beresford
    • Claude Rich - Roderick Charpentier, based on Luther Crackenthorpe
    • Annie Cordy - Babette Boutiti, based on Mrs McGillicuddy
    • Chiara Mastroianni - Emma Charpentier, based on Emma Crackenthorpe
    • Melvil Poupaud - Frédéric Charpentier, based on Alfred Crackenthorpe
    • Alexandre Lafaurie - Raphaël Charpentier, based on Harold Crackenthorpe
    • Christian Vadim - Augustin Charpentier, based on Cedric Crackenthorpe
    • Hippolyte Girardot - Doctor Lagarde, based on Dr Quimper
    • Yves Afonso - Inspector Blache
    • Valériane de Villeneuve - Mme Clairin
    • Marie Lorna Vaconsin - Mme Valois
    • Laura Benson - Margaret Brown
    • Florence Maury - Diane

Publication history

  • 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.[8]

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 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.

Notes

  1. ^ The article time reads: Four-fifty from Paddington. In the United Kingdom's time notation, hours and minutes may be separated by a dot rather than a colon sign.

References

  1. ^ a b Peers, Chris; Spurrier, Ralph; Sturgeon, Jamie (March 1999). Collins Crime Club - A checklist of First Editions (Second ed.). Dragonby Press. p. 15. 
  2. ^ a b Cooper, John; Pyke, B.A. (1994). Detective Fiction - the collector's guide (Second ed.). Scholar Press. pp. 82, 87. ISBN 0-85967-991-8. 
  3. ^ a b "The Golden Years: 1953 - 1967". American Tribute to Agatha Christie. Inside Broadband - Personal Web Pages. http://home.insightbb.com/~jsmarcum/agatha53.htm. Retrieved 17 July 2010. [unreliable source?]
  4. ^ The Times Literary Supplement (News International): 725. 29 November 1957. 
  5. ^ The Times: p. 13. 5 December 1957. 
  6. ^ The Guardian: p. 14. 6 December 1957. 
  7. ^ Barnard, Robert (1990). A Talent to Deceive - an appreciation of Agatha Christie (Revised ed.). Fontana Books. p. 194. ISBN 0-00-637474-3. 
  8. ^ Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers - Colindale). Shelfmark: NPL LON LD116.

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