4.50 from Paddington

4.50 from Paddington

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Agatha Christie
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Crime novel
Published 1957 (Collins Crime Club)
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 256 pp. (first edition, hardcover)
Preceded by The Burden
Followed by Ordeal by Innocence

4.50 from Paddington is a detective fiction novel by Agatha Christie, first published in November 1957. The 1961 film Murder, She Said was based on it. This work was also published in the United States as "What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw."


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 ("Edie"), died four years before the novel begins, leaving a son, Alexander. The remaining heirs to the estate are Cedric, an Ibiza-based bohemian painter and lover of women; Harold, a cold and stuffy banker; Alfred, the black sheep of the family who is known to engage in shady business dealings and Emma, a spinster. Non-Crackenthorpe characters include Lucy Eyelesbarrow, Bryan Eastley (Alexander's father), James Stoddart-West (a school friend of Alexander), and local physician Dr Quimper, who looks after Luther but is secretly in love with Emma.

Lucy uses golf practice as an excuse to search the grounds. She discovers some fur from a woman's fur coat. Then she discovers a cheap compact. Lucy takes these to show to Miss Marple, who believes the murderer knew all about Rutherford Hall and its geographical location. He removed the body from the embankment where it had fallen clear away from the line, drove a car outside the grounds at night and hid the body. Lucy eventually finds the woman's body hidden in a sarcophagus in the old stables among 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 had 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, 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 and settled in England. She adds that she would not have come forward until learning from her son of the forged letter to Emma.

The whole family takes ill suddenly (apart from Bryan and Alexander who had gone away for a few days) 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. The box they come in is actually the box for Emma's sedatives that were swapped for something else. They prove to be poisoned with aconitine and Harold dies.

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 fish bone 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 was a French ballet dancer known as "Anna Stravinska", who had been married to Dr Quimper many years earlier. A devout Catholic, she refused to divorce him, so he murdered her to be free to marry Emma and inherit the Crackenthorpe family fortune, once he had eliminated Emma's brothers.

Dr Quimper actually poisoned the cocktail jug and added the arsenic to the sample of curry he took before he gave it to the police-detectives. He then added a second dose of arsenic to Alfred's tea. When he poisoned Harold, he used the box that held Emma's sedative tablets and swapped them for aconitine tablets which killed Harold. Miss Marple then tells Mrs McGillicuddy and Inspector Craddock that old Mr Crackenthorpe may die soon, that Emma will get over the doctor, and that there will soon be wedding bells for Lucy - though she refuses to be drawn on the identity of the groom, although the reader understands that this would be Cedric, the most attractive (and sole surviving) Crackenthorpe brother.


Literary significance and reception

Philip John Stead's review in The Times Literary Supplement (29 November 1957) concluded that "Miss Christie never harrows her readers, being content to intrigue and amuse them."[1]

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."[2]

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 says 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."[3]

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 independent women. Miss Marple apparently solves the crime by divine guidance, for there is very little in the way of clues or logical deduction."[4]



Main article: Murder, She Said

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

BBC 'Miss Marple' Series

Further information: Miss Marple (TV 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 the family being poisoned. 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. It is also revealed that Harold had a deep passion for dancing. Also Anna Stravinka's real name is "Martine Isabelle Perrault". 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 suggested by Craddock in the novel.

ITV Marple Series

Further information: Agatha Christie's Marple

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, with the title What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw used when it was shown in the US. The adaptation contains several changes in it from the novel:

In addition to these changes, Miss Marple is seen reading Dashiel Hammett's "Woman in the Dark and Other Stories", providing an inter-textual detail that suggests some of Miss Marple's detective insights come from her reading of classic murder fiction as well as her shrewd understanding of human nature.

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.

Computer game

On June 17, 2010, I-play released a downloadable hidden object game based on 4:50 from Paddington (see the external links). Dialogue interspersed with the hidden object puzzles follows the plot of the original story. Items mentioned in the dialogue are among those hidden in each round. The player finds locations on the map by textual clues, which makes the map a hidden object scene, too. At three points during play the player is asked to hypothesize on the identity of the murderer, but as in the novel there is little in the way of relevant evidence. Unlike the games based on Evil Under the Sun, Murder on the Orient Express, and And Then There Were None, this does not include any actual detection and unlike the latter two does not add an additional character to represent the player. This is the 4th in a series of Oberon Games' hidden object games based on Agatha Christie's novels, the first three were based on Death on the Nile, Peril at End House, and Dead Man's Folly.

Publication history

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.[5]

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


  1. The Times Literary Supplement. News International: 725. 29 November 1957.
  2. "none". The Times. 5 December 1957. p. 13.
  3. "none". The Guardian. 6 December 1957. p. 14.
  4. Barnard, Robert (1990). A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie (Revised ed.). Fontana Books. p. 194. ISBN 0-00-637474-3.
  5. Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers – Colindale). Shelfmark: NPL LON LD116.

External links

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