4:50 From Paddington (Agatha Christie)

One of the major joys of Christie’s books is that they manage the difficult feat of being full of corpses and yet free of angst – a trick the Golden Age authors excelled in and modern authors seem to have forgotten. Miss Marple (our “old pussy” as she’s referred to in the book) is at the absolute top of her game. She gives us some nice village parallels to shed light on the characters of the suspects; she twinkles affectionately at both young Inspector Craddock and Lucy; she does a bit of gentle match-making; and she gives us some very ambiguous pronouncements that leave the reader as beautifully baffled as the other characters.

The emphasis is on entertainment – a mystery and a puzzle to solve, rather than an attempt to harrow the soul…When Elspeth McGuillicuddy (I love the hilarious surname!) witnesses a murder on a train journey back from London after Christmas shopping, the railway authorities believe it to be only a dream and the police can find no evidence—and no body. Luckily for her (but not for the murderer), Mrs McGuillicuddy had been on her way to meet her friend, Jane Marple. Miss Marple takes charge of the investigation and enlists the remarkable Lucy Eyelesbarrow (brilliant at mathematics but whose chosen career is domestic service) to undertake the more active parts of the investigation, which she cannot herself do.

Miss Marple deduces that the body is most likely in the vicinity of Rutherford Hall where Lucy promptly obtains a post (and as it turns out her services are much needed). She soon finds a clue and then the body, setting off the official investigation. By luck or coincidence, the case is handed over to Inspector Craddock (who we “met” in A Murder is Announced) and who is well aware of Miss Marple’s talents. The family at Rutherford Hall are all suspects but none of them seem to recognize the body nor can the police identify who she is.

In a puzzle that turns out to be fairly complicated, with a surprising twist or two along the way, Miss Marple uses her vast knowledge of human nature to understand the family at the Hall while Lucy and Craddock do much of the legwork. The motive may be a most basic one (not a spoiler since it is in most of AC’s books) but the path to the answer is not, and even takes Craddock out of the country. One aspect I enjoyed in the book was meeting characters from earlier books in the series like Craddock and Griselda, whose son (born only seven books ago) is now grown up and an expert at maps. There was, as usual, some romance in the book as well but Christie leaves it to the reader to interpret how things will turn out. Nice. 🙂

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Comments

  1. really need to read this book, is it available in PDF or on Amazon?

    i have read some of her books and her 1934 book “Murder on the Orient Express” is just mind blowing. you will love every page of that book.

    Mila Muchinsky
    Owner
    http://armenianwomen.net/

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It will be on Amazon. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

    Like

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