Review 1735: #1976 Club! Sleeping Murder

With the 1976 Club looming, I picked out some books to read for October that were published in 1976. Sleeping Murder also qualifies for RIP XVI! As usual, on this first post I’m also listing anything else I’ve reviewed published in 1976. As far as I know, there are only two:

Newlywed Gwenda Reed is house hunting along the south coast of England for herself and her husband Giles, both newly arrived from New Zealand. When she comes across a house in Dillmouth, she immediately feels at home there, although she experiences a fleeting panic on the stairs. Nevertheless, she buys the home.

Gwenda is residing in it to oversee updates to the house when she begins to experience something odd. She expects the stairs down from the terrace to be in one place but they are in another. When workmen remove some bushes where she thinks the steps should be, they find the stairs used to be there. Similarly, she keeps trying to walk through the wall in the dining room where she thinks there should be a doorway. When the workmen examine the wall, they say it had a door there. She imagines a particular wallpaper in what used to be the nursery, and when a blocked cupboard in that room is opened, she sees that wallpaper inside.

Gwenda is most upset because she’s had a vision of a woman dead at the bottom of the stairs and realized it was Helen. But she has no idea who Helen is. Feeling confused, she decides to consult friends in London. Accompanying the group out for the evening is her friends’ aunt, Miss Jane Marple. After she explains what’s been happening, Miss Marple says she should find out if she ever lived in England as a child.

Inquiries find that Gwenda lived in the house when she was three. At the time, her father had a second wife named Helen. But Helen supposedly ran off with another man. Gwenda and Giles find that Helen’s half brother, Dr. Kennedy, still lives in the area. He has some letters that she sent right after she left but hasn’t heard from her since.

Gwenda and Giles begin to believe that Helen was murdered. Did Gwenda’s father kill his wife, or did someone else?

It was hard for me to judge whether this was a difficult mystery, because I vividly remembered a TV production of it. However, knowing the identity of the killer made me appreciate how skillfully Christie salts in the clues without giving too much away. The characters are clearly defined, and Miss Marple is at her cleverest.

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14 thoughts on “Review 1735: #1976 Club! Sleeping Murder

  1. mallikabooks15 October 11, 2021 / 10:36 am

    I love that in Christie’s books too. She gives one all the clues but one only notices or realises in retrospect.

  2. Brona's Books October 12, 2021 / 4:04 am

    I haven’t read a Miss Marple since my teen years. I’d forgotten how visual & atmospheric they can be, as you captured so well in this review.

    • whatmeread October 12, 2021 / 11:03 am

      Yes, there’s a reason why she’s the queen of mystery!

  3. Helen October 12, 2021 / 7:30 am

    I enjoyed this one and found it very atmospheric. I hadn’t seen it on TV and didn’t come close to solving the mystery!

    • whatmeread October 12, 2021 / 11:05 am

      Yes, I think it would have been hard if I hadn’t known already.

  4. FictionFan October 12, 2021 / 6:28 pm

    I love the spookiness at the beginning of this one when Gwenda starts getting flashbacks. And whenever I hear The Duchess of Malfi being mentioned, it’s this book I think of…

    • whatmeread October 12, 2021 / 7:20 pm

      I’m not sure I get the Duchess of Malfi. Do you mean Tis Pity She’s a Whore?

      • FictionFan October 12, 2021 / 7:36 pm

        Isn’t this the book in which Gwenda faints at the “cover her face, mine eyes dazzle” quote?

      • whatmeread October 12, 2021 / 7:44 pm

        Oh, yes! How quickly we forget!

      • whatmeread October 12, 2021 / 7:44 pm

        I thought you were referring to poor Helen.

  5. Simon T October 21, 2021 / 11:24 am

    I really thought everyone would be reading this one for the club, and it was much less than I expected – but glad you did. I remember really loving this one, and it must be fun to read knowing the solution, and seeing the clues laid down.

    • whatmeread October 21, 2021 / 11:28 am

      Yes, it was. I was surprised, too, that there was so little overlap in people’s choices this time. But it means more books were read.

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