//by Agatha Christie//published 1976//
So I do believe that this is my favorite Miss Marple tale to date. Sleeping Murder was a delightfully creepy, well-paced story.
First, though, let’s talk about something that really confused me. I’ve been reading the Miss Marple stories in their published order, as I did last year with Hercule Poirot. And, thus far, the stories have also been in chronological order (the Poirot mysteries did the same). However, Sleeping Murder is definitely set earlier in Miss Marple’s timeline than the book before this one (Nemesis). While still elderly, Miss Marple is much more active, and, throughout the story is found gardening and weeding, activities she has vocally mentioned in earlier books as being too strenuous for her, per her doctor’s orders.
And so, I did something that I rarely do for this book blog (because, as I have mentioned in the past, I am a super lazy blogger) – I actually did a smidge of research on this book. And by that, I mean I read the Wikipedia article. And now I will summarize the publishing information from said article for you, so you can be a lazy blog reader and not click through to the link. (Besides, if you click through to a Wikipedia link, you’ll never end up back here. You’ll get swept up in a series of Wikipedia links, and before you know it, it’s already after 18:00 and you’re supposed to have supper on the table but you’re busy reading about the communication methods of honey bees.)
Okay, so, apparently, earlier in her career, Christie wrote the last Poirot novel and the last Marple novel. Then she put those novels in a vault, and went on to write many other novels, including lots that involved these two characters. After she published Postern of Fate, the actual last novel she ever wrote, in 1973, Christie authorized the publication of Poirot’s final appearance, Curtain. Sleeping Murder followed in 1976, although Christie passed away before it was actually published. While Curtain is most definitely the end of Poirot, Sleeping Murder is, in fact, set earlier in Miss Marple’s lifetime (so I wasn’t crazy). Sleeping Murder wasn’t as powerful of a mystery as Curtain, but I was unsurprised to find that it had been written earlier in Christie’s career – I really think that her earlier works are much stronger than her later ones.
This story starts with a young woman, from New Zealand, who has arrived in England to pick out a home. Her husband is to follow shortly (he is traveling on business), but she gets the pleasure and the challenge of finding the perfect home for their new life together. Whilst driving through the countryside, Gwenda finds a beautiful little house – she loves it at first sight. She feels as though she has come home at least – it is as though she instinctively already knows about this house, all its secrets. She purchases it happily, and wires her husband Giles to tell him the wonderful news.
As Gwenda settles in, though, she continually has feelings of unease. That feeling of “knowing” the house takes on a more ominous tone as various remodeling projects she puts into action turn out to be, in fact, restoration – clearing bushes leading down to the sea reveals that there used to be stairs there. Putting a doorway between the den and the dining room – except there was already a door there, plastered over. Separately, these little incidences would feel inconsequential, but as more and more of them occur, Gwenda becomes more and more frightened.
I cannot begin to describe how creepy Christie makes all of this sound. I really don’t want to give any more of this away because you definitely need to read it yourself. It sounds so dumb, but it is positively eerie.
Much like Curtain, Sleeping Murder is a book that you simply have to read. I can’t describe much more for fear of giving it away. The story unwinds with perfect pacing, hurling the reader into a very satisfactory ending. A 4/5 for Miss Marple’s final entrance, and an excellent way to end her series.