Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie: a Book Review

Sleeping Murder is Miss Marple’s last case, published posthumously in 1976, although Agatha Christie had written it during the Second World War. Miss Marple investigates a murder that had happened 18 years ago.

 As I began to read I thought it seemed familiar and then I realised I’d watched the TV version a few years ago, with Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple and after a couple of chapters I remembered who the murderer was. This didn’t spoil my enjoyment as I was able to see the clues as they cropped up.

Newly married Gwenda has bought a house in Devon. She had only recently returned to England from New Zealand where she had been brought up by an aunt after the death of her parents when she was a small child. She immediately felt at home in the house, but then began to have strange premonitions and whilst she was at the theatre watching The Duchess of Malfi  she had a vision of a murder at the house she had just bought. She heard the words:

‘Cover her face. Mine eyes dazzle, she died young …’

Gwenda screamed.

She sprang up from her seat, pushed blindly past the others out into the aisle, through the exit and up the stairs and so to the street. She did not stop, even then, but half walked, half ran, in a blind panic up the Haymarket (Page 27)

She is convinced that she is going mad, but she is helped by Miss Marple, whose nephew, Raymond West is a distant cousin of Gwenda’s husband, Giles. It’s a most baffling ‘˜cold case’, because first of all they have to discover who, if anyone, had been killed, where, when and why. It does all rather depend on a number of coincidences, beginning with the fact that Gwenda has bought the house that she had lived in as a very young child, but as Miss Marple explains to Gwenda:

‘˜It’s not impossible, my dear. It’s just a very remarkable coincidence – and remarkable coincidences do happen. You wanted a house on the south coast, you were looking for one, and you passed a house that stirred memories and attracted you. It was the right size and a reasonable price, so you bought it. No, it’s not too wildly improbable. Had the house been merely what it is called (perhaps rightly) a haunted house, you would have reacted differently, I think. But you had no feeling of violence or revulsion except, so you have told me, at one very definite moment, and that was when you were just starting to come down the staircase and looking down into the hall. (Pages 33-4)

That moment, as it turned out was very significant, indeed.

Sleeping Murder is a satisfying puzzle and I liked this last view of Miss Marple, compassionate and shrewd and this description of her appearance:

Miss Marple was an attractive old lady, tall and thin, with pink cheeks and blue eyes, and a gentle, rather fussy manner. Her blue eyes often had a little twinkle in them. (page 26)

  • My rating: 4/5
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Masterpiece edition (Reissue) edition (2 Jun 2008)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0007121067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007121069
  • Source: I bought the book

6 thoughts on “Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie: a Book Review”

  1. This is one of my favourite Miss Marple books and it never fails to delight. I love the idea of a house which harbours secrets and also the evil intent of the murderer. I have enjoyed both TV and Radio adaptations of this book so I really do think that it has stood the test of time.

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  2. Margaret – Thanks for reminding me of such a good story! I really do love the way Christie weaves past and present together in this novel, and there’s such a sense of atmosphere. A fine review, for which thanks!

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  3. Lovely review on one of my favourite Miss Marple mysteries. Did you eve see the earlier TV version, with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple? It was excellent, much better than Geraldine McEwan, and very true to the book and the period.

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