‘Less serious? Fiddlesticks!’ said Mrs McGillicuddy. ‘It was murder!’ ‘Yes, but who killed her, and why, and what happened to her body? Where is it now?’ ‘That’s the business of the police to find out.’
McGillicuddy, Eyelesbarrow, Crackenthorpe – I have no idea of the origins of these names, but they feel as if they are the typical array of names you might expect for an Agatha Christie mystery.
I loved the setting of a train station, and in the beginning of 4.50 from Paddington Mrs Elspeth McGillicuddy is on a train, where she happens to witness a man strangling a woman on the train passing. But she only sees his back. And of course, the ticket collector thinks she must have been dreaming. ‘Now don’t you think, Madam, that you’d been reading an exciting story, and that you just dropped off, and awaking a little confused – ‘
Off McGillicuddy goes to report her experience to Miss Marple, and Miss Marple – once it becomes clear the police have very little to go on because there is no body and no reporting of a person missing, so is there even a murder to investigate? Decides to employ Lucy Eyelesbarrow, to get a job as domestic help in the house that borders the railway tracks, where a body may have been thrown from the train, and to do some snooping. The house belongs to Mr Crackenthorpe, on who his family is waiting to keel over and die so they get his money, but the old man has no intention of going anywhere. I liked the character of Mr Crackenthorpe.
‘Those silly fools think I’m going to die soon. I’m not. Shouldn’t be surprised if I outlived the lot of them. And then we’ll see!’
He was the one character out of the Crackenthorpe family that stood out, the others – his children, tend to have been the characters you always find populate an Agatha Christie novel. I didn’t care for any of them. One or two of them, Cedric Crackenthorpe being one of the sons, felt mildly threatening in the way they spoke to Lucy Eyelesbarrow and exerting power and authority over the woman. So you do get a feeling that Lucy might be getting a whack on the back of the head at any point.
The Chief Inspector Craddock rounds up the alibis for the 20th of December, the Crackenthorpe family come down ill – thought to be mushroom poisoning, turns out to be a bit more severe than that ‘Nasty things, mushrooms’ (which I agree with, mushrooms are disgusting) more deaths occur and Miss Marple shows up in the final part of the book to point the finger and announce who the murderer has been this whole time. 4.50 from Paddington is as well written as all of Agatha Christie’s books are, but I did lose interest at the midway stage of the story.
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For those who are curious