I do read very less English books. However when it comes to an Agatha Christie novel, I cannot leave it. And once I start reading it, I have to reach its finish in one go only. I am a great mystery fan and among my favourite mystery writers, Agatha Christie holds the numero uno position. The mystery queen (1890-1976) was a writer par excellence in writing spellbinding mysteries and creating a mysterious world of characters and events in such a way that, in my view, none can match her penning skills.
Agatha Christie has written most of her mysteries under three categories – 1. the Hercule Poirot series novels, 2. the Miss Marple series novels, 3. thrillers, i.e., the novels not belonging to any series. Hercule Poirot is a gentleman whereas Miss Marple is an elderly lady. Sleeping Murder is the last published novel of Miss Marple, in fact. the last published novel of Agatha Christie though it is said to have been written during the second world war days. Agatha Christie passed away on 12th January, 1976 and Sleeping Murder came before the world after that only in the same year. After reading Sleeping Murder, anybody can feel that the mystery-queen had saved her best for her last novel. It’s an outstanding murder mystery by all means.
A newly married woman, Gwenda Reed nee Halliday comes to England from New Zealand to settle down. She believes that she had gone to New Zealand from India in her early childhood and never been to England before. However after selecting a house in Dillmouth and moving thereto, she starts feeling that this house and everything in it is quite familiar to her as if she had been there earlier too. Getting too uncomfortable because of this fact, she moves to London and happens to come across Miss Marple. While watching a play, she feels that a dialogue of the play had been heard by her earlier too and it’s related to some horrible incident witnessed by her in her early childhood. Then comes the story of her stepmom, Helen who is said to have run away with some other man, leaving her father behind to die in an asylum. However clue after clue suggests that it might not be true and there’s some terrible truth hidden, related to a murder. Miss Marple advises Gwenda and her husband Giles Reed to let ‘sleeping murder lie’ as it is and not to dig buried skeletons. But destiny takes these people forward and forward only in the direction of discovering the hidden truth. Finally the decades old truth and the criminal get exposed.
The complete narrative is engrossing without a single superficial line or a single boring paragraph. The reader cannot afford to relax in between and postpone the reading of the unread portion. The penning style of Agatha is so great that the reader gets restless to know the truth and goes on reading relentlessly. She possessed the unique knack of first folding and then unfolding a mystery on a layer-by-layer basis and revealing the truth when all the layers are put off, like those of an onion.
Further Agatha always focusses on the psychological aspect of the incidents (mainly the crimes) which form the narratives of her novels. She always dives deep into the mental world of her characters and delves the psychological reasons for whatever they did. Since most of the crimes (especially the homicides) take place due to psychological reasons, her stories are close to reality and sound quite logical after the suspense is revealed in the climax. Sleeping Murder is no exception. Not only the psychology of the leading lady, Gwenda but also of the other characters (including the murder victim and the ultimately exposed murderer) have been explained with finesse.
Miss Marple, the aged female detective has not been kept in high profile in this novel. However she is able to connect the broken links and the clues to reach the truth quite skillfully. Any fan of Miss Marple series novels will admit that Sleeping Murder is one of the best (if not the best) novels of Miss Marple series as well as the murder mysteries penned by Agatha Christie.
The language is enchanting. The flow is smooth. The twists and turns are able to keep the viewer tightly gripped. No proof-reading errors. No boredom. No superfluous incidents to fill the pages. Crisp and fast-paced narrative with every word being useful and relevant in the context of the story. Summing up, everything falls in line in Sleeping MurderI recommend this last published novel of the mystery-queen to all the mystery lovers as well as the people fond of reading stories based upon the complexities of human-psyche.
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