Review: ‘4.50 From Paddington’ by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie's 4:50 from PaddingtonRemember how I wrote a post about how I had summertime SADness? And that I don’t do well in hot weather aka summer at all?

Well, melancholy struck me last weekend.

I finished reading Agatha Christie’s “4.50 From Paddington” last Thursday. I planned on writing the review last Friday so I could read through at least two more books before Labor Day weekend was over. But I failed. I sat in my living room under the ceiling fan for most of that weekend. I even slept on the floor one of the nights.

I’m making a lot of excuses for not writing the review, aren’t I. It’s almost as if I’m still trying to avoid writing it. Oops. So let me grab a blanket and snuggle into the same chair to talk about “4.50 From Paddington.”

The book, published in 1957, involves the murder of a woman, who was strangled by a tall, dark man. The kicker? It is witnessed by Mrs. McGillicuddy, who was traveling in a train going to opposite direction. She of course informs the steward, as well as reports the incident when she arrives at her destination. After telling her friend Miss Jane Marple, they scan the newspapers the next day to see if anyone reported a body. No such luck. Miss Marple tells her friend that she has gone through all the available channels and done all she could. What happens next? Miss Marple sets out to solve the murder. She recruits Lucy Eyelesbarrow to help find the body of the woman and solve the mystery.

As with most … OK, all Christie mysteries, I wasn’t able to solve the train whodunnit before the final chapter. Though I am quite proud to say that I had it narrowed down to two possibilities and one of them was the murderer. So I was close enough.

But in this book, I didn’t care half as much for the solving the mystery as I did about Lucy Eyelesbarrow.

Lucy Eyelesbarrow was thirty-two. She had taken a First in Mathematics at Oxford, was acknowledged to have a brilliant mind and was confidently expected to take up a distinguished academic career. But Lucy Eyelesbarrow, in addition to scholarly brilliance, had a core of good sound common sense. She could not fail to observe that life of academic distinction was singularly ill rewarded. She had no desire whatever to teach and she took pleasure in contacts with minds much less brilliant than her own. in short, she had a taste for people, all sorts of people — and not the same people the whole time. She also, quite frankly, liked money.

So what Lucy would do is take up a post doing any sort of labor, such as housework, for a couple weeks. Once the two weeks were up, she would either find another post or go on a short vacation somewhere. To read about an intelligent, determined and independent woman is always a breath of fresh air. She was the perfect fit to help Miss Marple look for a body.

At the end of the book, there is a lot of speculation of just who Lucy ends up with. Is it Cedric Crackenthorpe, the artist who lives in Spain and keeps trying to woo her as she helps Miss Marple? Is it Bryan Eastley, brother-in-law to Cedric Crackenthorpe who is a former RAF pilot? Or is it … dun, dun, dun … Detective-Inspector Dermot Craddock, the detective sent from Scotland Yard to solve the murder and godson of Sir Henry Clithering?

After finishing the book, I went online to see if Lucy appeared in any subsequent Miss Marple books and found discussions about who she ended up with. Christie left it open ended. Perhaps she chooses Cedric, though one person speculated that Miss Marple hinted toward Craddock that Lucy would choose him.

But I don’t think Lucy chose any of them. Throughout the narrative, she puts up with various confrontations with Cedric as well as his father Luther, who blatantly asked her to marry him. She cleverly avoids both of them. When Craddock asked Miss Marple at the end of the book who Lucy would choose, I wondered why it even mattered. Maybe she would end up like Miss Marple, which would be an OK thing in my book. Lucy is her own person and she lives her life as she sees fit. Tying her to a man is unnecessary. I’m glad Christie left it open-ended so people could choose what they thought happened.

Though this mystery was entertaining, I think my favorite Christie mystery is still “The Moving Finger.” Don’t ask me if I like Miss Marple better than Poirot or vice versa — I’m still deciding.

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