I am on a Miss Marple spree as part of my Author of the Month series on Agatha Christie. March is almost over and I still have so many of her books to read! The problem is, whenever I start ‘skimming’ a book just enough to write a review, I get pulled in and end up reading the whole thing. And although these books are fast paced, they cannot be rushed.
What Mrs. McGillicudy Saw is also called ‘4:50 from Paddington’. Judging by some references, this is set sometime in the 1960s, a long time after WW II is over. Miss Marple is almost 90. The whole thing starts when Mrs. McGillicudy, all agog with her Christmas shopping, witnesses a man strangle a woman. What is different is that she is traveling in a first class compartment going toward Market Basing, and the murder happens in another train that is passing by. Miss Marple believes her friend Elspeth and they tell the police about it. But no dead body turns up anywhere. Mrs. McGillicudy goes to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) but Miss Marple wants to get to the bottom of this funny business.
Never known for her leg work, Miss Marple writes to the forces – her grand nephew and the vicar’s son. Based on information she gathers, she deduces where the body may have been dumped. Then she hires a woman – Lucy Eyelesbarrow – to go and get hired in a property she zeros in on. The Crackenthorpes at Rutheford Hall are a queer family. The father is old and invalid and cranky to boot. Emma, the spinster daughter is sweet on the local doctor. An artist son lives abroad, Alfred, the black sheep gets into scrapes, Harold is the big city businessman, and Edith is dead, leaving behind a war hero husband and a son.
Lucy is enterprising and finds the body of the woman. This sets into motion a roller coaster of investigations and unexpected events. The fun part is that no one ever suspects that Lucy is in with the police. And almost every Crackenthorpe male propositions her in some manner or the other. Miss Marple takes up quarters nearby with her faithful Florence and DI Craddock is at his wits’ ends as the mystery deepens.
What Mrs. McGillicudy Saw or 4:50 from Paddington starts off really farfetched. But the industrious ‘old biddy’ Miss Marple makes a tangible picture out of it. This is an absolute must read for all Agatha Christie fans and mystery fans.
When I read these books, I remember how easy it is to enjoy mysteries even without sitcom style humor and sidekicks. Although I do enjoy the other kind, the kind of work that came from Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers still has evergreen appeal.