'Sleeping Murder' is Miss Marple's last case and was published in 1976. It was to be the last Agatha Christie novel and was published after her death, although actually it wasn't the last Miss Marple book she wrote. It is set in the 1930s, and written during World War 2 and in it Jane Marple helps a young couple who insist on not letting sleeping murder lie.
In this book, newlywed Gwenda Reed looks for a home for her husband and herself. She buys Hillside, an old house on the south coast, because it feels like home to her. She stays in a room that used to be the nursery while the house is being renovated. She has an idea for wallpaper for the little nursery; when the workmen open up a hidden and long-sealed door which she had been sure must be there, the room beyond is papered in the very pattern she imagined. She goes to London to visit her relatives, Raymond West and his aunt, Miss Jane Marple. They go to the theatre and see 'The Duchess of Malfi' and at the words "Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle; she died young", Gwenda screams as she seems to see herself watching a man saying those very words as he strangles a blonde woman called Helen. Miss Marple soon realises that these things are not delusions but memories...
This book examines two interesting ideas. One is how far we are influenced by our childhood impressions and the other is whether it is always wise to know the whole truth. Sometimes, Miss Marple tells Gwenda, it is better to let sleeping dogs lie.
This book has all Agatha Christie's usual strengths - detailed and clever plotting with plenty of surprises, good characterisation and shrewd insight into human motives. These are the things that put her among the Big Four of the golden age of detective fiction, along with Dorothy L Sayers, Marjorie Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. All, in my opinion, were better writers that her in terms of style, but none had quite her ingenuity and only Marsh could begin to rival her prolific output. This is one of the better Agatha Christie novels, concisely written and quite powerfully suspenseful.
on 19 November 2000
I expected the pace to be slow as it is a Miss Marple story. I started the book at midnight, thinking of getting through the heavy first few chapters, but ended up finishing the whole book at a go!
Miss Marple tackles a murder that has went undetected for 18 years. There are seemingly no clues whatsoever and no indications that a murder was committed. Only the memory of the eye-witness (who was three when she saw, and subsequently forgot about it) to rely on, Miss Marple finally expertly uncovered the sickening truth, but that was after yet another murder was committed to protect the killer's identity during the process...
on 12 February 2016
Although the book is of Christie's usual, excellent standard I read it as the last (13th) in her series of full Miss Marple novels, as per the recommended order.
Unfortunately, when, at the
beginning of this book, Miss Marple
engages with a character whose demise is
the reason for the appearance of the main
cast of "The Mirror Cracked", I was
distracted for the rest of the book. This was a huge shame and spoiled my enjoyment of what is it is a good read.
on 19 January 2016
If you like Agatha Christie and you've enjoyed the TV series with Miss Marple (particularly Joan Hickson and Geraldine McEwan versions) you will love this mystery story. Very satisfying, quite atmospheric, and even though I've seen the series on TV, still couldn't remember or work out who dunnit!