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4.50 from Paddington

Thursday, June 4, 2020

4.50 from Paddington (1957) Agatha Christie (Miss Marple)

4.50 from PaddingtonThis may well be my favorite Miss Marple story.

Elspeth McGillicuddy is coming home from London when her train briefly runs alongside another train, and she witnesses a man strangling a women to death. The other train sped on, and Mrs McGillicuddy told all the proper people, but no one seems quite to believe her, so she goes to her friend Jane Marple, to tell her all about it.

The are both surprised when the newspapers fail to report the discovery of a woman’s body, which piques Miss Marple’s curiosity.

I love so very many things about this story. First, the tiny bits that tell you so much in a few words.

Mrs. McGillicuddy handed the porter his tip which he received with disappointment.

That is really a perfect sentence.

And I adore this bit between Miss Marple and Mrs McGillicuddy.

“You’re getting deaf, Jane.”

“Just a little, perhaps. People do not seem to me to enunciate their words as clearly as they used to do. But it wasn’t that I didn’t hear you. I’m afraid I wasn’t paying attention.”

The other thing I love is Miss Marple’s recognition of her own weaknesses, and how she works around that.

Dispassionately, like a general planning a campaign, or an accountant assessing a business. Miss Marple weighed up and set down in her mind the facts for and against further enterprise. On the credit side were the following:

1. My long experience of life and human nature.
2. Sir Henry Clithering and his godson (now at Scotland Yard, I believe), who was so very nice in the Little Paddocks case.
3. My nephew Raymond’s second boy, David, who is, I am almost sure, in British Railways.
4. Griselda’s boy Leonard who is so very knowledgeable about maps.

Miss Marple reviewed these assets and approved them. They were all very necessary, to reinforce the weaknesses on the debit side – in particular her own bodily weakness.

But best of all we get Lucy Eyelesbarrow.

She was unbelievably competent in every conceivable sphere. She looked after elderly parents, accepted the care of young children, nursed the sickly, cooked divinely, got on well with any old crusted servants there might happen to be (there usually weren’t), was tactful with impossible people, soothed habitual drunkards, was wonderful with dogs.

For that fortnight you had to pay the earth! But, during that fortnight, your life was heaven. You could relax completely, go abroad, stay at home, do as you pleased, secure that all was going well on the home front in Lucy Eyelesbarrow’s capable hands.

So because Miss Marple is old, she realizes she can’t go out and search for bodies, so she hires Lucy Eyelesbarrow to find the body for her.

It’s really all just delightful.

What were you looking for in the sarcophagus?”

“I was looking for a body,” said Lucy.

“You were looking for a body – and you found one! Doesn’t that seem to you a very extraordinary story?”

“Oh, yes, it is an extraordinary story. Perhaps you will let me explain it to you.”

“I certainly think you had better do so.”

It’s not that I don’t like the earlier stories, because I do. It’s just that everything is just so and perfectly as it should be for this story.

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Rating: 9.5/10

Categories: 9.5/10, British, Cozy, Female, Historical, Mystery, Reread
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