RogerBW's Blog

4.50 From Paddington 27 December 2022

1997 audio adaptation by Michael Bakewell of Christie's 1957 mystery, in one 90-minute episode. A friend of Miss Marple's, travelling by train, sees a woman being strangled in another train running alongside; but nobody reports having found a body.

Well, clearly the murderer had a plan to dispose of the corpse. But to me the story makes a mis-step by having Miss Marple (June Whitfield) herself largely off-stage or acting as a consultant, while someong else is her operative on the spot. The transition from "the body must have been thrown from the train here" to "therefore this place is intimately involved with the murder" feels very rough and ready; there's a bit more in the book about why it should be the case, but that's largely elided here. (Still, so are several of Mr Crackenthorpe's rants.)

Most of these dramatisations, even the 90-minute ones, don't feel as though they're missing anything very important, but although this isn't a book I know well I kept hitting snags where it felt as though something had been excised. This isn't one of Bakewell's first adaptations, and I can't account for why it should feel unusually rough.

Still, the cast are solid as always, particularly Susannah Harker as Lucy Eyelesbarrow and Janet Maw as Emma Crackenthorpe, even if they do sound a bit similar. Stephen Thorne as Dr Quimper makes heavy weather of a relatively unrewarding part. Perhaps rather too many of the side characters are retained here, but overall this is a workable adaptation if not one of the better ones.

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