Sleeping Murder, published shortly after Agatha Christie’s death, in 1976, suits the alternate title, Murder in Retrospect, in Miss Marple’s exploration of a cold case. Gwenda Reed has just moved to England from New Zealand, while her husband of three months, Giles, plans to follow behind a few months later after wrapping up business. She quickly settles on a house, though it needs plenty of renovation. While overseeing the work, Gwenda decides that the yard needs a path to the sea instead of the bushes that obscure the view, and the contractor discovers that the yard originally did have the steps that Gwenda had envisioned. Then, she finds a new coincidence when she asks the contractor to build a door between the drawing room and dining room, only to find out that the exact spot Gwenda has been instinctively walking towards used to have a door that was later covered up. But the event that scares Gwenda away from the house is that the workmen get open a stuck dresser drawer that reveals the original wallpaper. And this wallpaper is the same pattern that Gwenda had envisioned, terrifying her out of the house.
Giles’s relatives, Raymond and Joan West, earlier invited Gwenda to visit them in London, but she felt she needed to oversee the constructing. But this set of scares drives her to accept their invitation after all, where she meets Raymond’s Aunt Jane Marple. To celebrate Miss Marple’s birthday, they go to see the play The Duchess of Malfi. As the play reads its climax of a murder, with the famous lines, “Cover her face; my eyes dazzle; she died young.”, Gwenda suddenly screams and runs out of the theater in shock.
The next day Gwenda and Miss Marple have a serious chat in which Gwenda tells the older lady that she must be mad. Besides the crazy events at her home, Gwenda has had a genuine scare, flashing to a scene where she peers through the banister in her home and sees a man strangle a woman while repeating those lines. But it can’t be a memory. After all, Gwenda has never been to England before. Miss Marple helps Gwenda realize that she did live in England for a couple years at a very young age before moving to be with family in New Zealand and after being born in India.
So Gwenda and Giles have a mystery on their hands. Who died? Why does no one else seem to know about any murders?
Even though the book was published in 1976, Agatha Christie wrote this book about 1940 and willed it to her husband Max Mallowan after locking it in a vault. Living in London during the Blitz, Christie had concern for her ability to survive the bombings, so she decided to create a legacy for her husband, a famous archaeologist. Because it was revised partially later, the book has some irregularities in details related to time and is clearly set before most Miss Marple books. For example, there are pictures of King Edward V and the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Further, in later books Miss Marple is forbidden from gardening, but she actively gardens here.
This book has a very different feeling from the other Miss Marple books. It has some dark elements to it, but unlike in Nemesis, the book is not sad. It contains plenty of drama and depth.
Stephanie Cole performs the audio edition of this book. I really appreciate the job she does, as she sounds just like Miss Marple must have. She carries a sense of drama with her and standardizes the book well.
Sleeping Murder is one of my favorite Miss Marple books despite my usual dislike of dark books. I like the basis of the plot and the characters of Gwenda and Giles, and Miss Marple really gets drawn in a lively way. I give this book five stars.
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