Sunday, July 14, 2013

What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!

by Agatha Christie. I had to go to some trouble to find a picture of the cover with the original title on it, since it is now published under the much less entertaining title of 4:50 from Paddington, even though the actual train in the novel leaves Paddington Station at 4:54.  This discrepancy is never explained.

Elspeth McGillicuddy, not given to fancies or hallucinations, is distressed when the proper authorities don't seem to believe that she saw what she is quite sure she saw through the window of a train that passed hers on her way to visit her good friend Jane Marple: a man with his back to the window and to her, strangling a woman who expired before Mrs. McGillicuddy's horrified eyes. Fortunately, Miss Marple believes her friend, and Miss Marple is more than capable of sorting out the whole affair, with a little help from some friends to do the legwork.

Because obviously, if you're friends with Miss Marple, you tell her immediately when you've witnessed a murder, right?

I've never been a big fan of Agatha Christie generally, though I tend to like the work of some of her contemporaries quite a bit (Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, and Dorothy Sayers all inevitably come to mind). I seem to remember being a little creeped out by the character of Miss Marple; she's like the spider of St. Mary Mead, with threads running everywhere--nothing moves in her web but she knows about it, and she understands you better than you do yourself. You don't see Miss Marple figure out the answer; she just knows it, a good bit earlier than she deigns to explain it to anybody.

I would not have picked up this book if my book club hadn't chosen it.  I admit I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but I think that may be because Miss Marple's not actually in it much, since the story tends to follow her operatives. I've now revised my opinion of Christie to the effect that I'm not entirely opposed to reading another Miss Marple story (still can't stand Poirot, however, the smug bastard) but I don't suppose I'll make a point of looking for them.

No comments:

Post a Comment