Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

I was doing so well with the Read Christie 2020 challenge earlier in the year. I read the suggested novels for January, February and March (Murder on the Orient Express, A Murder is Announced and The Hollow) but then, distracted by Covid-19 and lockdown, I never picked up April’s book – or May’s or June’s or July’s. I think I’ve officially failed this year’s challenge now, don’t you? Anyway, Sleeping Murder is the book I was supposed to have read in April. Published in 1976, it’s a Miss Marple mystery and was the final book in the Marple series.

The novel opens with a young woman, Gwenda Reed, arriving in England from New Zealand. Her husband, Giles, is due to come and join her soon, and Gwenda hopes to have found somewhere to live in time for his arrival. As soon as she sees Hillside, a house in the seaside town of Dillmouth, she decides she wants to buy it. There’s something about the house that feels strangely familiar and in fact, she seems to know things about it that she really shouldn’t know at all. When she suddenly has a vivid memory of seeing a dead body at the bottom of the staircase, Gwenda panics, believing that she is losing her mind.

After confiding in Miss Marple, who is related to Giles’ cousin, Gwenda discovers that there is a logical explanation for her recent experiences: Hillside had actually been her home as a very small child, before she left England for New Zealand. Convinced that a murder must have taken place in the house – and that she herself had witnessed the aftermath – Gwenda and Giles begin to investigate. However, Miss Marple has serious forebodings; she likes the young couple and is worried that they could put themselves in danger by trying to uncover secrets that have remained buried for almost twenty years. The only way to protect her new friends is to solve the mystery herself and catch the murderer before he or she has the chance to strike again!

I haven’t read all of Christie’s Marple novels yet, but this is one of my favourites so far. I didn’t manage to solve the mystery – I thought I had, but I was wrong – and I was surprised to find out who the murderer really was. The clues were all there, but I didn’t pick up on them; in fact, the biggest clue went over my head because I didn’t have the general knowledge to be able to interpret it. I can’t explain what I mean without spoiling the story, but if you’ve read the book you’ll know which clue I’m talking about.

I love the atmosphere Christie creates in this novel, with a sense of lingering evil from the moment Gwenda walks through the doors of Hillside. With the crime being one that took place in the past and which needs to be solved in retrospect, I was reminded of the Poirot mystery Five Little Pigs, although I enjoyed reading this one more, maybe because the present day characters are more actively involved in the story. We see most of the investigation unfold from Gwenda’s perspective, but Miss Marple herself has a large role to play in the novel. Although the book wasn’t published until the 1970s, it was actually written much earlier in Christie’s career (possibly in 1940) so Marple is actually younger and livelier than she is in some of the other books in the series which were published before this one!

Have you read Sleeping Murder? Which is your favourite Marple novel?

This is book 9/20 from my 20 Books of Summer list.

18 thoughts on “Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

  1. Lark says:

    I haven’t read as many of Christie’s Marple mysteries as I have of her standalone and Poirot ones, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. I did like A Caribbean Mystery, but if this one’s your favorite so far, I can’t wait to read it. 🙂

      • Jo says:

        I am popping in and out of the Read Christie 2020 dependent on whether I have already read the book or of my mum has it on her shelf or not. I think this was one that was not on her shelf, so I missed it. I have this months ready to read though and looking forward to it.

  2. Alyson Woodhouse says:

    I really enjoyed this one, as I liked Gwenda, but like you, I didn’t guess the identity of the murderer at the time, as the main clue didn’t mean anything to me then. My favorite Marple is probably A Murder is Anounced, but they are all great in their own ways.

  3. Christine says:

    I’ve read all of the Marples. 4:50 From Paddington is a favorite of mine because I just love Lucy Eyelesbarrow. I think that Nemesis is probably my least favorite.

    • Helen says:

      I read one or two of Allingham’s Albert Campion mysteries a few years ago, but have since been distracted by Christie. I’ll have to get back to that series at some point.

  4. jessicabookworm says:

    Sorry to hear you’re a little behind on your Christie challenge, but you’re enjoying it when you do manage to read one so that’s the main thing. I really must read more Agatha Christie – In fact, I’ve actually never read one of her Miss Marple mysteries!

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