Gwenda Reed stood, shivering a little, on the quayside.
The docks and the custom sheds and all of England that she could see, were gently waving up and down.
And it was in that moment that she made her decision--the decision that was to lead to such very momentous events.
She wouldn't go by the boat train to London as she had planned.
After all, why should she? No one was waiting for her, nobody expected her. She had only just got off that heaving creaking boat (it had been an exceptionally rough three days through the Bay and up to Plymouth) and the last thing she wanted was to get into a heaving swaying train. She would go to a hotel, a nice firm steady hotel standing on good solid ground. And she would get into a nice steady bed that didn't creak and roll. And she would go to sleep, and the next morning--why, of course--what a splendid idea! She would hire a car and she would drive slowly and without hurrying herself all through the South of England looking about for a house--a nice house--the house that she and Giles had planned she should find. Yes, that was a splendid idea.
It's been many years since I first read Sleeping Murder, Miss Marple's last case. And it's been a favorite of mine since that first reading. Written much earlier than the 1976 publish date, Christie put the book away and planned that it be published after her death. Curtain, Poirot's last case, received similar treatment. It was adapted for TV in 1987 by the BBC with Joan Hickson (my favorite Miss Marple) as the gentle, but shrewd, crime solver.
The main story centers around Gwenda and Giles Reed, young marrieds, and coming to England to live from New Zealand. Gwenda arrives before Giles and plans to look for a house. As she does so, she comes across Hillside, the perfect house. It feels like home. And then Gwenda starts having strange feelings. She makes some changes to the house and grounds, things that she thinks seem logical, and in doing so, the workmen find that those renovations had been there before. Feeling unsettled, Gwenda goes to London to visit some of her husband's relatives and attends a play, The Duchess of Malfi. A line in the play, 'Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle; she died young', causes Gwenda to scream in terror. She suddenly sees an image of herself looking down at a woman at the bottom of the stairs in her new house - it's Helen and she's dead!
At this point, Miss Marple enters the story and things progress. I won't share any more, but suffice it to say that the story gets more complicated and our young couple and elderly sleuth are busy figuring out the identity of Helen and exactly what's going on in Gwenda's head. My daughter and I watched the TV adaptation long ago - probably in the '90's - and there's a line about 'monkey's paws' and 'dead Helen'. That scared my girl so much that she wouldn't watch this story again for a long, long time.
I listened to Sleeping Murder on audio and it was narrated by Stephanie Cole. She did a good job, but I wished that it would have been Joan Hickson's calm voice in my ear. To me, she was the perfect Miss Marple. So glad that this Christie favorite was my second choice for my Classics Club venture.
'It's really very dangerous to believe people. I never have for years.'
Miss Marple’s last case, Sleeping Murder, was written over 30 years before it was published and sees Miss Marple solve her final mystery.
Soon after Gwenda moved into her new home, odd things started to happen. Despite her best efforts to modernise the house, she only succeeded in dredging up the past. Worse, she felt an irrational sense of terror every time she climbed the stairs. In fear, Gwenda turns to Miss Marple to exorcise her ghosts. Between them, can they solve a crime committed many years before?