Author: Agatha Christie
Series: Miss Marple #8
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
The truth is people are an extraordinary mixture of heroism and cowardice.
Agatha Christie. One of the best selling mystery writers of all times, and I have but dabbled in her works so far. I am looking to remedy this personal short falling this year (after my disappointing success with YA novels on the whole last year, I’m looking to shift into more grown up adventures this time around).
So 4:50 from Paddington. A murder, witnessed through a window from a passing train (somewhat ironically, I finally got the chance to watch The Girl on the Train this weekend. Skip the movie, read the book). Ms. McGillicuddy (the name! I love the name. I cannot get over the name. My dad and I used to say McGillicuddy all the time) happens to be friends with Miss Jane Marple. Now I haven’t actually read any of the other novels in the Miss Marple series, so this fact was a little underwhelming to me, but I plan on catching up with this series soon.
Miss Marple is friends with one Lucy Eyelesbarrow, who happens to be a professional home helper (which, by the way, sounds like one of the coolest jobs ever. I am seriously looking into taking this up as my next career when I have my quarter to mid life crisis). Lucy takes a position at the home on whose property the sleuthing women (McGillicuddy!) believe the body was ditched. And so enters the Crackenthorpe (love these names).
4:50 to Paddington is a slow burner without a lot of action. The most exciting part of the murder mystery was the original killing by strangulation, and it is glossed over without much detail. The rest passes by with mostly talking, a little bit of amateur sleuthing from the young grandchildren, and a case of poisoning.
What keeps 4:50 from Paddington from being a snooze are the characters. I realize the series is named for Miss Marple, but I wouldn’t count her as a main character in this novel. Lucy is the girl of the hour, and she is my soul sister. For one, her job. For another, this line hit so close to home, as many who read my blog might guess:
“Not the details, perhaps, but cooking satisfies my creative instincts, and there’s something in me that really revels in clearing up mess.”
Lucy and I are two peas in a pod my friends.
While Mr. Crackenthorpe, the patriarch of the family who pinches more pennies than I do, is the character that everyone wants to kick the bucket so they can inherit his moola. While he grows more cantankerous with the passing pages, I related to this old grouch in the beginning. This line precisely sums up my disgust towards cookie cutter home communities: “Nothing but pavements and miserable little band boxes of houses.”
I liked Bryan’s character as well. We watch a lot of war history in our household, so this line struck a true chord with me: “They’re what you might call adrift in the world – had danger and death and excitement too early in life. Now they find life tame. Tame and unsatisfactory. In a way, we’ve given them a raw deal.” And we wonder why so many military personnel come back with PTSD and/or find it hard to assimilate back into society.
While the grand reveal at the end is a little dissatisfying, I was extremely proud of myself for guessing the culprit of the whodunit (even though I’ll be the first to admit it was a gut feeling with no basis in anything but one mention early on in the novel). Though the mystery itself left something to be desired (the reasoning behind the original murder felt a little far fetched and didn’t really add up to the rest of the plot unraveling), I think Christie masterfully crafted this set of characters to build the story upon.