Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

6. Sleeping Murder
by Agatha Christie
mystery, 1976
Kindle book, 4
finished 2/1/12

This was published posthumously, and is referred to as 'Miss Marple's Last Case,' though happily for the reader she is not infirm, nor does she die. In fact, I thought her more sensitive, and sharper than I've seen her before.

The beginning of the book is rather like one of those movies that starts off bright and sunny, when quite suddenly a feeling of unease creeps in. Though it doesn't get as scary and bizarre, I was reminded a bit of Rosemary's Baby in the first section. Gwenda and Giles have just gotten married in New Zealand. Gwenda has come to England to find them a house, while Giles will come later. She finds the ideal home. She feels completely comfortable, and though it needs some work, it is the perfect place. One of the areas that needs work is the garden path. The steps and walkway off it are in the wrong place. Instead of approaching the sea view directly, it is off to the side. Where the center walk should be there is a bramble of bushes. Odd, but not startling.

When Gwenda wants to go from one room to the other, she gets up from her seat and without thinking heads right toward a wall rather than a less conveniently placed door. After this happens a few times, she tells the workmen to cut a hole in that wall since it is clearly the place a door should be. When they get working, they tell her the door used to be there.

She has a specific wallpaper in mind for a bedroom, poppies and cornflowers. When a painted-in closet is opened up, she finds that exact wallpaper on the interior wall.

So, the reader begins to get little shivers. What on earth is going on here? One evening she is invited up to London by the Wests, Miss Marple's nephew Raymond and his wife Joan. Along with Jane Marple, they attend a performance of The Duchess of Malfi. All is fine until the words, 'Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle; she died young' are spoken. Gwenda screams and runs off. She tells the kindly Miss Marple that when she heard the words, she saw in her mind's eye, as if she were looking through a banister, a woman named Helen being strangled by a man speaking those very words. Miss Marple finds the word 'through' to be most instructive. That means that Gwenda was a little girl who wasn't tall enough to look over, but had to look through.

So, did Gwenda witness a murder when she was little? Why is this house so well-known to her if she believes she has never been to England before? When Giles arrives, he and his wife and Miss Marple begin looking into the situation. The title is a play on the words, 'let sleeping dogs lie.' In Miss Marple's view it might be better to let it be, to not investigate because it could lead to terrible truths which have been kept secret for almost twenty years.

I loved this. Miss Marple had a really strong role which she doesn't always. Her mind is as clear at the end of her cases as it was at the start. Gwenda and Giles are a sweet young couple, and the reader roots for them to come through the horrors that are unveiled without losing their youthful love for each other and love for life. They do.

According to Agatha Christie At Home, in 1940,
Agatha began two books as insurance for Max and Rosalind, later assigning to Max the copyright of the final case for Miss Marple, Sleeping Murder, and to Rosalind the final case for Poirot, Curtain.

I find that incredibly endearing, and also amazing in that she thought her husband and daughter would need an 'insurance' book. Of course, she couldn't look into the future and know she would be one of the top best-selling authors of all time.


  1. I'm working my way through the Christie books in chronological order - it'll be a long time before I get to this one! Agatha Christie at Home sounds like a book I should get to add to the experience.

  2. I haven't read this one but did see the film adaptation with Joan Hickson which did give me a creepy thrill. Isn't the Agatha at Home just a beautiful book? The author did such wonderful job that I am able to add Dickens at Home to my library with complete confidence in her work.

  3. Joanne, I tried doing that for a while but then didn't. Don't ask me why 'cause I don't know. But mostly I've found it doesn't matter except in a very few instances. You will LOVE the book. It is just fantastic. And so very good to hear from you!

    Stacy, and so very good to hear from you! I have the JH version in my Netflix Instant queue and will watch it soon.
    And yes, the book is wonderful. I didn't know she had done others.

  4. Nan, I was sent a stack of DVDs by my mother-in-law from England about 1 1/2 years ago with all those TV adpations starring Joan Hickson, and this one was, in my opinion, particularly well done. Reading about it now makes me want to watch it again!

  5. Librarian, I love how you two share this interest in British books and tv shows. I'm going to watch it soon, too. And I think you'd like the book!

  6. This is one of my favorite Miss Marple books. Well, I really like all the Miss Marple books, but I think the film adaptation with Joan Hickson is very good. When we originally watched it many years ago, my daughter was totally creeped out by the "monkey paws". I think the psychology is more a factor here, more than usual with Miss Marple. Seems a little more Poirot like in a way. I really love cold case books and that's what this one is, a cold case.

    By the way, have you watched the British show, New Tricks? We like it.

  7. Kay -as soon as you said you liked cold cases, I was going to ask if you watch New Tricks. :<) I LOVE that show. I mean, I really do. I think the acting, the plots, the locales, the banter are first rate. Glad to know it is still going but sorry James Bolam has left. I particularly like the abilities of Brian in the show. I just finished season 4.
    And I was creeped out by just the words, monkey paws in the book. :<)

  8. Nan,
    I love this book so much. It is one of my FAVORITES. It is so, fascinating how she has that bit of creepiness just kind of making you sit on the edge of your seat in anticipation as to where the story will lead..."Cover her face,mine eyes dazzle, she died young"...those words just sends chills down my spine!!! Read this book, people, it's great!

  9. Can't wait to read this. I read a lot of Christie when way back when I was young:) Don't really remember now all of what I read. I'm off to netflix now!

  10. Sounds like a great read...I will be adding more of her books to my reading this year! Isn't it great that she wasn't really overly confident of how wonderful a writer she was???

  11. To correct an earlier note I wrote - Sleeping Murder is not on Instant, only dvd, and it is in the 'saved' section. :<(

    Thanks, Kay, it is great!

    Peggy, that's one of the reasons I like keeping track of my books on the blog. I can go back and look at my 'authors' tab and see what each book is about. :<)

    Staci, she is a wonderful writer.

  12. I'm in the middle of Sleeping Murder right now and enjoying it very much. I wondered whether to read it just yet as it's the last case for Miss Marple, but decided it didn't matter - I'm not reading the books in order, but just as I find them. Occasionally there's a reference in one book to an earlier case (which I may not have read) but that's only a minor incident.

    And I've seen the TV version anyway - but still can't remember 'who did it'!

    I think Miss Marple would be a lovely person to meet - unless you're a murderer, that is!

  13. Margaret, that's great! And I've just begun Five Little Pigs.
    I've found that it really doesn't matter about the order that much.

  14. I haven't read Sleeping Murder for ages. I've been doing rereads in audio but haven't seen this one in audio yet (shall have to look again).

    It is so sweet that she wrote "insurance" books for her family.

  15. I really liked this one, Belle. Very, very interesting.

  16. I enjoyed this one as well, Nan.

    As for royalties and such, I believe that Christie signed the royalties for her long running play, THE MOUSETRAP (which I was fortunate to see in London) to her grandson.

    I also enjoyed the first adaptation of SLEEPING MURDER with Joan Hickson, done several years ago. It's set in a beautiful locale. They're pretty faithful to the story too. Yes, I agree with Stacy, it's pretty creepy.

  17. Nobody does a murder like the grande dame, do they?

    I'm sure I've read this in the past, but so long ago that it would be worth digging out again - thanks for the reminder!

  18. And her nephew has the copyright to The Mousetrap!
    Funny, though - I've read and reread all the Poirots, but there are still Marples I haven't read, and this is one of them. It sounds very interesting!

  19. Sounds like a great read! Thanks for the review Nan!! Have a great weekend!

  20. Yvette, I don't think I'm going to watch the tv version. I've already had a nightmare about ghosts in my house, and I suspect a more visual version of the story could be scarier than the book!

    Debbie, it's definitely one of my favorites so far.

    Deniz, same here. Sometimes I'll begin reading an AC, and Miss M. shows up unexpected by me! I think you'll like Sleeping Murder.

    Thanks, Sherri, and you, too.

  21. Nan, I'm just testing to see if I can leave a comment another way. Here goes. Penny

  22. I do like Dame Agatha, and like you, I love Gladys Taber too. I often have nights when sleep eludes me, but I fix a glass of warm (bleh!) milk and grab a copy of one of Gladys Taber's books. I wait for her words to work their magic until I drift off to sleep, dreaming of the first snowdrops, or how to make sausage balls for a party. In the face of such kindness and gentleness, insomnia doesn't stand a chance!

  23. Thank you, Canadian Chickadee. I so loved reading this.


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