This is a short audiobook that I thought I would give a try. I am not much of a fan of Christie's writing, but I did enjoy the Hercule Poirot series on TV to the point where I even wrote a parody of Murder on the Orient Express. I have to really like something or really hate something to do a parody of it, and I'm not thinking of doing a Miss Marple parody, but I know nothing of those particular stories, so I decided to give this try since I found it on audiobook. My bad!
It's read by Joan Hickson, a Brit actor with whom I'm familiar (no, not that familiar!). She played the role of Miss Marple in a TV series of the same name (Marple, not Hickson!). There were twelve shows, and one of them was based on this particular novel. I may try to see that if I can get my hands on it, just out of curiosity, but this particular novel I found far too plodding and filled with too much extraneous detail to be entertaining. I think Hickson was the wrong choice too, because her voice, sorry to say, sounds a bit too mouth-filled-with-marbles for enjoyment. It reminded me of the voices the Monty Python crew used when they were impersonating women. I can see why the publisher hired her, but going the 'obvious' path isn't typically the best option and for me it didn't work well here.
Christie is the world's all-time best-selling author, even as of today, having sold some three billion books (that's not the same as saying almost half the planet's population have read her!), which ranks her behind only the Bible and Shakespeare, but I have to ask, if Christie had never lived, and some unknown writer today wrote her books and offered them for sale, would a publisher actually buy them or would that poor writer end up having to self-publish if they wanted to get anything out there?
Would these books sell even if they were picked up by a mainstream publisher? Would a publisher even pick up a typescript to read if its title was "4:40 from Paddington"?! I may be wrong of course, find it hard to believe that they would. Certainly not as well as they historically did. But guess what? Her books are now starting to come into the public domain, so who knows what new writers will do with them?
Anyway, this one, first published in 1957, has the interesting plot of a woman traveling on a train which happens to run in parallel for a short time, with another train traveling in the same direction. Through the windows, before the trains part company, the woman witnesses a man strangling a woman on the other train, and when she reports this to the train authorities (why them and not the police I have no idea) they dismiss her story, thinking she has dreamed it after reading a magazine story about someone who was strangled.
The woman is a friend of Miss Marple of course. I have a theory about this. People like this Marple and this Poirot (and far too many others) always seem to be around when murders are committed! It seems only logical to conclude that they somehow cause the murders. How else can you account for them being in such proximity to so many of them?
Anyway, when the woman reports this murder to Marple, she's believed, and the two of them then go to the police, where Maple knows the desk sergeant. They're taken more seriously, but when inquiries come up blank, Miss Marple recruits a small army of advisors to figure out where the body most likely was tossed from the train. She's working on the theory that this was a planned murder, the murderer throwing the body out at a convenient, but secluded location, and then afterwards coming back by car and picking it up to dispose of it.
The basic problem here is: why would he plan it on a train? If he could lure the victim onto a train ride with him, he could evidently lure her anywhere. The limp excuse given is that someone might see him with his victim and remember it if he tried the murder somewhere else, but this completely ignores the fact that everyone and their uncle would see him and this poor woman going onto the train together! So, not so well thought out.
What got to me though was the excessive detail which had nothing to do with the murder or the investigation: eating all the food at the table, clearing away the dishes, washing the dishes. Sorry, but no! There was too much of this, and the story felt perfunctory even with these details, like Christie wrote this as detailed notes, but never bothered to flesh them out before it was published. While the plot was a good starting point, the story itself felt poorly-written and was consequently unentertaining, and I gave up on it. Besides, everyone knows the Butler did it, right? Or the doctor.