What would you do if you witness a murder that no one seems to believe about? Give up? Mrs Elspeth McGillicuddy doesn’t. On her return journey after her Christmas purchase by train the 4:50 from Paddington, she witnesses a man strangling a woman on the train that passes hers. She reaches to the concerned authorities but realises that no one is taking her word seriously. Lucky for her, she stays with her friend Miss Jane Marple, an old busybody who not just knows the right people to talk to, but also believes earnestly in her friend that she decides to solve the case on her own.
Using the never-ending list of people who would love to help an old lady, she studies the route of the trains that pass through that particular station at the given time, and quickly zeroes in Rutherford Hall as the place where they could find the body. She sends in an efficient and thorough house help Miss Lucy Eyelesbarrow to Rutherford to discover the body. Unfortunately for them, they find out not just a body but a series of murder that may or not be connected to the first one related to the 4:50 from Paddington.
Things are never as they seem, particularly when there is a broken family with a large sum of money to be inherited when the father kicks off and every one of them has a lot to lose if that didn’t happen anytime sooner, concerned. The Crackenthorpe family consists of the old man Luther Crackenthorpe, his daughter Emma who stays in to take care of her apparently invalid father and their three sons Alfred, Cedric and Harold. Though the latter do not live at Rutherford, they do visit their father often. Harold, a businessman and a prominent figure in the city, Alfred, the black sheep of the family and the one who is into shady deals and Cedric, the rebellious painter who lives in Ibiza, look like the man Mrs McGillicuddy saw from her train. Their widower son in law Bryan Eastley and his son Alexander would also benefit from the family inheritance. There are too many suspects and motives and far too fewer clues to continue, or so the police think but not long before Miss Marple solves the crimes, thanks to Mrs McGillicuddy’s return to the story once again.
Though 4:50 from Paddington is definitely not my favorite Agatha Christie, it was a pleasure re-reading just for the childhood memories. The story ran too long and too slow in parts. The ending was unexpected, but it failed to make the reader wonder how he had missed the glaring clue at the end after it was solved. I love whodunnits that make me feel that surprised that ‘oh the murderer was just among them, all along. How did I miss that?’ Well, 4:50 from Paddington did not do that. Oops, I have said enough, no more spoilers.
Bottom-line: Best read during a train journey.