4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

This month’s theme for Read Christie 2022 is ‘a story featuring train travel’. I had already read most of the possibilities – The Mystery of the Blue Train, Murder on the Orient Express and The ABC Murders – but hadn’t yet read the Miss Marple novel 4.50 from Paddington, so that was my choice for this month.

The ‘train travel’ element of the story appears in the very first chapter, with the elderly Elspeth McGillicuddy taking a train to the village of St Mary Mead to visit her friend, Miss Jane Marple. Mrs McGillicuddy happens to glance out of the window just as her train passes another train running parallel in the same direction. At that moment, a blind flies open in the window of the other train and she is horrified to witness a man standing with his back to her strangling a woman. She reports the incident to the ticket collector and the police are informed, but when no dead body is found on the train Mrs McGillicuddy is dismissed as an old woman with an overactive imagination. Miss Marple, however, knows her friend is telling the truth and is determined not to let the matter drop.

Convinced that the body may have been thrown from the train as it passed the grounds of Rutherford Hall, Miss Marple enlists the help of Lucy Eyelesbarrow, a young woman she knows who has established a reputation for herself as a professional and efficient cook and housekeeper. Lucy’s skills mean she is very much in demand and never short of work, but Miss Marple persuades her to take a position at Rutherford Hall for a few weeks so that she can search for the body while she’s there. Settling into her new job, Lucy begins to get to know the residents of Rutherford Hall – the family patriarch Luther Crackenthorpe, his sons, daughter, in-laws and grandchildren – and begins to wonder whether their connection to the murder on the train really was a coincidence after all.

I found this a particularly enjoyable Miss Marple novel – probably in my top two or three. It seems that it has had some criticism due to the lack of clues and logical deductions and I do understand that complaint because we never find out exactly what leads Miss Marple to identify the correct suspect. However, I didn’t have a problem with this. The solution does make sense, even if we don’t know how she arrived at it, and the culprit was actually the person I suspected myself (again, not based on any real evidence – just a hunch!).

Although Miss Marple is the one who solves the mystery, we don’t really see very much of her in this book. Unable to infiltrate the Crackenthorpe household herself, she sends Lucy Eyelesbarrow in her place, which means a lot of the story is written from Lucy’s perspective. Luckily, Lucy is a great character – independent, intelligent and courageous. Several of the male Crackenthorpes are drawn to her and there’s a hint at the end of the book that she’s going to marry one of them. Which one she chooses is left for the reader to decide – although I’ve since discovered that Christie reveals Lucy’s choice in her Secret Notebooks, published in 2009.

There’s only one month left in this year’s Read Christie challenge and the December theme will be ‘a story containing precious jewels’. However, plans for Read Christie 2023 have already been announced and you can register your interest here: https://linktr.ee/OfficialAgathaChristie

17 thoughts on “4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

  1. Cyberkitten says:

    Thanks for the reminder that I need to get off my butt and read the next Miss Marple book in the sequence (not this one!). I’m aiming for 10 classics next year (this year’s target was 6 which I’ve exceeded) and ‘They Do it With Mirrors’ will be one of them. Looking forward to reading this one too, eventually. I remember the somewhat different Margaret Rutherford version of it fondly…

  2. Davida Chazan says:

    I don’t know this one, but then… I don’t know many Christie books, but those I’ve read, I’ve enjoyed totally! I’d do this challenge but I don’t want to commit to something I might not succeed in doing!

    • Helen says:

      This is a great one, but maybe not one of her better known books. It’s a very informal challenge – you don’t need to take part every month and there’s usually a choice of books for each theme.

  3. FictionFan says:

    I love the two boys in this one. The bit where the police inspector lets them in to see the dead body always makes me laugh – his “oh well, you’re only young once!” attitude is so 1950s! These days they’d be sending the boys for counselling… 😉

    • Helen says:

      Yes, the boys were great and I’m glad they got their wish! It’s a shame there aren’t more child characters in Christie’s books as she writes them very well.

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