At 4:50 from Paddington
Mrs. Elspeth McGillicady, a middle-aged woman tired of Christmas shopping in London, sits down on the train at Paddington Station, flips through the magazine and falls asleep. Half an hour later she wakes up. It’s dark outside the window. The train crashes with a crash. Then, for a while, along the neighboring rails in the same direction as the train in which Mrs. McGillikadi is traveling, another one is moving. Mrs. McGillicady sees a curtain rising sharply in one of the windows of the parallel train. In the brightly lit compartment the man (he is visible to her from behind) strangles the woman. Mrs. McGillicady saw the woman: this is a blonde in a fur coat. Like a hypnotized, elderly lady watching the scene of the murder in all
After hearing the story of Mrs. McGillicady, Miss Marple discusses in detail the details of what she saw and decides to tell the story to the local police sergeant, Frank Cornish. The sergeant, who had occasion to be convinced of the mind and insight of Miss Marple, does not doubt the truthfulness of the story of two elderly ladies. Miss Marple assumes that the perpetrator could either leave the corpse in the car and run, or throw it out of the train window. But in the newspapers there is no mention of the corpse in the train, and the request of Sergeant Cornish comes a negative answer. Miss Marple repeats her friend’s route and makes sure that in one section of the road, where the train slows down before the turn, the railway rails are laid along a fairly high embankment. She believes that the corpse could be knocked off the train here. Miss Marple compares with the maps of the locality and the address book.
Lucy Aylesbarow is a young woman with a sharp mind and diverse abilities, in particular, the ability to copiously and easily deal with any problems of the household. This skill made Lucy very popular, and it was thanks to him that Miss Marple met her – once Lucy was invited to keep house with the recovered after the illness of Miss Marple. Now Lucy takes on the rather strange task of an elderly lady: she will have to work on an au pair at Rutherfordhill, the Krekentorpov mansion, which is not far from the railway, just in the place of the alleged murder; except for this Lucy is to find the corpse. Thanks to her reputation, Lucy immediately gets a job in the Krekentorp family. Soon she manages to find the corpse of a young blonde – in the so-called Long Sarai, in a marble sarcophagus, which at the beginning of the century was taken from Naples by the present owner of the house, the father of the family, Mr. Krekentorp the elder. Lucy reports her discovery to Miss Marple, then calls the police. Investigating the case is entrusted to Inspector Craddock (who, by the way, knows Miss Marple very well and appreciates her detective abilities).
A terrible discovery gathers the whole family in a house where only the old father and daughter Emma usually live. The brothers Harold (businessman), Gedric (artist), Alfred (whose occupation is not entirely clear, however, later it turns out that he lives at the expense of various frauds), and Brian Eastleu, the husband of Edith’s long-dead sister (in the past a fine military pilot, , and now – a man who can not find a place in a changed life). None of the men of the family remains indifferent to the charm, beauty and active nature of Lucy. During the work at Krekentorpov she receives from each of them a more or less frank proposal to marry him (the old father is not an exception here), and the married Harold offers her patronage. Even guest in the house of his grandfather Alexander, son of Brian, and his friend James Stoddat-West, delighted with Ayusi,
The investigation is trying to establish the identity of the deceased. According to one of the versions, this is Anna Stravinskaya (Russian surname is a pseudonym), a mediocre dancer from the middle arm of the French ballet troupe who toured in England. Craddock’s trip to Paris seems to confirm this version. But there is another. The fact is that shortly before Christmas (and before the murder), Emma Krekentorp receives a letter from a certain Martina, a French girlfriend who died in the war of her brother Edmund (shortly before his death, he mentioned it in a letter to his sister). Martina wants to see the family, and also get some money to raise her son and Edmund. Emma, who loved her brother, rejoices the letter, the rest, rather, puzzles. Nevertheless, at the address given to Martina, Emma sends an invitation to visit Rutherfordhill. To this, Martin answers with a telegram about the sudden need to return to Paris. Attempts to discover it lead nowhere. But from Anna Stravinskaya, her dancer friends, they receive a postcard from Jamaica describing a cheerful and carefree holiday.
On the eve of his departure from the mansion of Krekentorpov, Alexander and his friend find Emma’s letter to Martina near the Long Shed.
Meanwhile, the mutual sympathy between Brian and Lucy, as well as between Dr. Quimper, the family doctor of Krekentorp, and Emma is becoming evident.
After a festive dinner, the whole family of Krekentorps suddenly turns out to be poisoned. Analyzes show that Lucy, who cooked dinner, has nothing to do with it – poisoning is not food. It’s arsenic. The nurses are invited to the house to care for the sick. It seems that the danger has passed, but suddenly Alfred dies (against which by this time Craddock collected quite a few clues).
Recuperating Emma is visited by the mother of James Stoddat West, Alexander’s friend. She heard from her son about the letter she found, and now she came to say that Martin was she, that years after Edmund’s death, whom she loved very much, met her current husband, that she did not want to disturb the memories of others or herself, that she was glad the friendship of his son with Alexander, who reminds her of Edmund.
Left in London, Harold accepts mailed pills to which Dr. Quimper’s prescription is attached, and dies.
Miss Marple, who once visited Lucy at Rutherfordhill (for Lucy’s employers, Miss Marple is her aunt), appears there once again with her friend Mrs. Elspeth McGillicady. In fulfilling Miss Marple’s plan, Mrs. McGillicady requests permission to go to the toilet, Lucy accompanies her. At this time, all the rest sit down for tea. Miss Marple pretends to be choked with a fishbone, and Dr. Quimper comes to her rescue. He takes the palm of the neck of an elderly lady and bends over her to look at her throat. Appearing in the doorway and not understanding what is happening, seeing only the figure of a man whose hands are lying on the neck of Miss Marple, her friend cries: “It’s him!” The doctor’s position reproduces exactly the posture of the strangler she saw on the train.
After a brief denial, Dr. Quimper confesses to the crime he committed. His wife, Anna Stravinskaya, was an ardent Catholic, and it was not necessary to expect a divorce. And the doctor wanted to marry rich heiress Emma Krekentorp. In a final conversation with Inspector Craddock, Miss Marple, relying on her wealth of experience in dealing with people and, as usual, finding a parallel from the fates of her acquaintances, suggests that Emma Krekentorpe is someone who finds her love rather late, but is happy all the time the remaining life. She also does not doubt that wedding bells will soon ring for Lucy Aylesbeara.