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4.50 from Paddington  
Facsimile of first edition cover
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Agatha Christie
Cover artist Not known
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Crime novel
Publisher Collins Crime Club
Publication date November 4 1957
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 256 pp (first edition, hardcover)
ISBN NA
Preceded by The Burden
Followed by Ordeal by Innocence

4.50 from Paddington is detective fiction novel by Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club on November 4 1957[1], and in 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

Plot summary

Elspeth McGillicuddy has come down 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. Miss Marple calls upon an acquaintance, Lucy Eyelesbarrow, who is a professional housekeeper renowned for her efficiency and organisational skills. Lucy agrees to take a position at Rutherford Hall and the hunt is on.

Rutherford Hall was built by Josiah Crackenthorpe, purveyor of tea biscuits. His son Luther, now a semi-invalid widower, had displayed spendthrift qualities in his youth. To preserve the family fortune Josiah's will provided Luther with a home and income for life but otherwise left everything in trust for the grandchildren. They share equally in the estate but only if they live long enough to inherit it.

Two of Luther Crackenthorpe's children, Edmund and Edith, died during World War II. The remaining heirs to the estate are Cedric, a painter and lover of women who lives on Ibiza; Harold, a cold and stuffy banker; Alfred, the black sheep of the family and a man known to engage in shady business dealings; and Emma Crackenthorpe, a spinster who lives at home and takes care of Luther. At the time of the story the brothers are visiting for Christmas as are Edith's surviving husband Brian Eastley and their son Alexander along with his friend, James Stoddart-West. A frequent visitor to Rutherford Hall is Dr Quimper who looks after Luther's health and is quietly 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 identify the victim's clothing as being of French manufacture. Emma reveals she has received a letter from a Frenchwoman named Martine who claims to have been married to Edmund just before his death in the war. The letter explains that Martine 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 Martine but this is struck down by James' mother Lady Stoddart-West - she claims she is Martine.

The plot thickens when Lucy's curry proves to be laced with arsenic. The whole family takes ill and Alfred dies. Sometime later after returning home to London Harold receives a delivery of some tablets that appear to be the same as the sleeping pills prescribed to him by Dr Quimper. They prove to be poisoned and Harold dies. One by one the heirs to Josiah's fortune are vanishing.

Lucy arranges another tea time visit to Crackenthorpe Hall for Miss Marple and Mrs McGillicuddy is invited down from Scotland. She is instructed to ask to use the lavatory as soon as they arrive but is not told why.

Miss Marple is eating a fish sandwich when she 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, 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 deduced that the strange angle and poor lighting conditions on the train caused Mrs McGillicuddy to give an inaccurate description of the murderer's height and hair colour and correctly concluded 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. He murdered her so he would be free to marry Emma and inherit Josiah's fortune once he got rid of all 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 Crackenthorpe Hall
  • Cedric Crackenthorpe – Luther's son; a painter and lover of women
  • Harold Crackenthorpe – Luther's son; a cold and stuffy banker
  • Alfred Crackenthorpe – Luther's son; makes his living as a sort of genteel con artist
  • Emma Crackenthorpe – Luther's daughter who lives at home and takes care of him
  • Brian Eastley – husband of the late Edith Crackenthorpe, Luther's daughter
  • Alexander Eastley – Edith & Brian'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 November 29, 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 December 5, 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, writing under the nom-de-plume of Francis Iles, reviewed the novel in the December 6, 1957, issue of The Guardian when 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

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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. 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), November 4, 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), January 3, 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.

References

  1. ^ a b Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club - A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 15)
  2. ^ a b John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction - the collector's guide: Second Edition (Pages 82 and 87) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8
  3. ^ a b American Tribute to Agatha Christie
  4. ^ The Times Literary Supplement November 29, 1957 (Page 725)
  5. ^ The Times, December 5, 1957. Page 13.
  6. ^ The Guardian December 6, 1957. Page 14.
  7. ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive - an appreciation of Agatha Christie - Revised edition (Page 194). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0006374743
  8. ^ Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers - Colindale). Shelfmark: NPL LON LD116.

External links


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