4.50 from Paddington is work of 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.

Plot[edit | edit source]

(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)

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?

Summary[edit | edit source]

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 having blonde hair and wearing a fur coat. 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, 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 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, 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[edit | edit source]

the Crackenthorpe family tree[edit | edit source]

Rutherford Hall[edit | edit source]

Brackhampton village[edit | edit source]

St Mary Mead[edit | edit source]

London[edit | edit source]

Paris[edit | edit source]

Others[edit | edit source]

Police[edit | edit source]

Village Parallels[edit | edit source]

Major themes[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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."

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 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."

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."

Film, TV and other adaptations[edit | edit source]

Murder, She Said[edit | edit source]

Main article: Murder, She Said

Murder, She Said is a 1961 comedy/murder mystery film adaptation by MGM directed by George Pollock. The production starred Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple in her first appearance as Miss Marple. Among others in the cast were Arthur Kennedy, Muriel Pavlow and James Robertson Justice, and Stringer Davis, Rutherford's real life husband. This film also featured a future Miss Marple, Joan Hickson as Mrs Kidder.

Miss Marple (BBC TV Series)[edit | edit source]

Main article: 4.50 from Paddington (Miss Marple episode)

BBC adapted the novel as episode 9 of their TV series Miss Marple, featuring Joan Hickson in the lead role. The episode aired on 25 December, 1987.

Le crime est notre affaire[edit | edit source]

Le crime est notre affaire.jpg

Main article: 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 with different locations and character names. 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.

Agatha Christie's Marple (ITV TV Series)[edit | edit source]

Agatha Christie's Marple.jpg

Main article: 4.50 from Paddington (Agatha Christie's Marple episode)

ITV adapted the novel as episode 4 of Season 1 for their series Marple. First broadcast on 26 December, 2004, this adaptation starredGeraldine McEwan as Miss Marple. The backstories of some characters are altered.

Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple[edit | edit source]

Main article: 4:50 from Paddington (Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple)

NHK produced an anime adaptation of the story as episodes 21-24 of their Japanese anime series Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple with the same title: 4:50 from Paddington (パディントン発4時50分 - Padinton Hatsu Yonjigojūbun). The episode was broadcast in January 2005 and features Miss Marple and her great niece Mabel West.

Nippon TV 2006: The Corpse which lies (嘘をつく死体 - Uso o tsuku shitai)[edit | edit source]

Nippon TV adapted the novel for a TV movie with the title The Corpse which Lies (嘘をつく死体 - Uso o tsuku shitai) first broadcast on April 11, 2006. This featured Keiko Kishi as a policewoman Junko Mabuchi in the place of Miss Marple.

TV Asahi 2018: 4.50 from Paddington (Paddington Hatsu 4ji50bun ~ Shindai Tokkyu Satsujin Jiken~)[edit | edit source]

Main article: 4.50 from Paddington (Japanese Special)

4.50 from Paddington (Drama Special - 2018).jpg

4.50 from Paddington - Night Express Train Murder (パディントン発4時50分 ~寝台特急殺人事件~) is a Japanese language adaptation from TV Asahi. In this richly-produced drama, the Miss Marple character has become Toko Amano, a successful police officer and professional in risk management. Toko is played by popular Japanese actress Yuki Amami.

The story begins one evening when, as Toko’s stepmother is aboard the Orion Express train, she witnesses a man strangling a woman. Neither the train conductor nor the police take her report seriously, assuming she was half asleep. Toko believes her and starts probing into the matter, deducing that the criminal threw the dead body from the train. Predicting that the dead body was thrown into the grounds of the palatial residence alongside the railway line, she engages “someone” to sneak in. 

The residence is inhabited by the president of a company and his family - a suspicious group of characters with secrets to hide. Where did the dead body disappear to? When a second murder occurs, Toko wonders what connects the cases, and seeks to get to the bottom of it.

The drama was broadcast on Japan's channel 5 as part of a weekend Agatha Christie special on 24th March 2018.

Radio[edit | edit source]

4.50 from Paddington is a radio adaptation of the novel with the same name. It was first broadcast by BBC Radio 4 in 1997. Dramatised by Michael Bakewell and directed by Enyd Williams.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • June Whitfield as Jane Marple
  • Joan Sims as Mrs McGillicuddy
  • Susannah Harker as Lucy Eyelesbarrow

Games[edit | edit source]

Agatha Christie: 4:50 from Paddington[edit | edit source]

Agatha Christie - 4.50 from Paddington.jpg

Main article: Agatha Christie: 4:50 from Paddington

Is a 2010 hidden object video game based on the novel 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie. This game is for OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8.

While traveling through the English countryside, Elspeth McGillicuddy witnesses a frightful event through the window of a passing train: murder! With little evidence, no one will believe her. No one, that is, except her good friend and amateur detective, Miss Jane Marple. As the bodies start to pile up, the pressure mounts for Miss Marple to crack the case.

Publication history[edit | edit source]

  • 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.

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.

International titles[edit | edit source]

  • Czech: Vlak z Paddingtonu (The Train from Paddington)
  • German: 16 Uhr 50 ab Paddington (4.50 from Paddington)
  • Hungarian: Paddington 16.50
  • Turkish: 16.50 treni (The train of 16.50)
  • Italian: Istantanea di un delitto (A murder's snapshot)
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