Title: Sleeping Murder
Author: Agatha Christie
Narrator: BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatisation
Publication date: 9 January 2006
Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
Age group: Adult
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Buy it: AudioGO
A BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation starring June Whitfield as Miss Marple, the sharp-witted spinster sleuth.
Gwenda Reed arrives from New Zealand, travelling ahead of her husband with the task of finding the perfect place to make their base. In the quiet village of Dilmouth, she finds a house with immediate appeal. A few renovations will convert it into her ideal home.
Then things get very strange indeed. Wanting porch stairs, Gwenda hires a builder to put them in – only to find some old steps, covered up by bushes. She decides on a connecting doorway between the drawing-room and the dining-room, but discovers one already there, now plastered over. When she opens the painted-over doors of an old cupboard to find wallpaper exactly the same as she had imagined, she begins to wonder if she is going mad.
It takes Miss Marple to realise that an unsolved murder is behind Gwenda’s apparent intuition – but even she does not suspect the murderer will strike again…
Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder was the very first radio drama I’ve ever listened to but it definitely won’t be the last. I’m still quite new to audiobooks and even though I see why they’re so practical and why so many people love them, I’m still not entirely sure I could ever get used to them or listen to them on a daily basis. Radio dramas, however, are right up my street.
If you’ve ever tried audiobooks or at least listened to an audiobook sample before then you’ll understand my problem. Namely that regular, unabridged audiobooks can be… well, they can be a bit dull, can’t they? A good narrator makes them a lot enjoyable but still, one person reading the lines of a dozen different characters gets a little monotone after a while. Well, this was not the case here.
A few minutes after starting the tape I realized something. Do you know what radio dramas remind me of? Going to the theatre or the cinema without all the fuss of actually getting there or having to worry about not being late or finding your seat. It lets you listen to a complete performance with at least half a dozen different characters from the comfort of your own home. And if that wasn’t good enough, I love the fact that it’s not just a bunch of actors reading out their lines either. There’s music and all sorts of sound effects which make it easier for you to imagine what the setting’s like or what the characters are doing at that particular time. It’s almost like watching a film without actually seeing it, if that makes any sense. For example, when Gwenda and Miss Marple bump into each other in town during a heavy rainstorm, you can actually hear the rain pouring down and how they must have been in a hurry to find a shelter from the rain. When Gwenda and her fiancé arrive at someone’s house and are about to get out of the car, you can hear the brakes and the car keys turning. When someone’s walking down the stairs, you can literally hear their steps and the stairs creaking. It’s just brilliant. And it’s very, very far from being dull.
Although I’m a big fan of Christie’s novels, Sleeping Murder is one I haven’t had the chance of reading before. If you’re in the same boat as me and don’t know whether to listen to such a short (90 minutes) version without reading the book first or not, you needn’t worry: I wasn’t familiar with the story either and it didn’t matter. I don’t know how many things are left out of this recording (as opposed to the original plot) but I know I didn’t feel as if we were missing something. All the clues are there and it’s all neatly wrapped up in the end.
As for the plot itself, I did manage to figure out who the murderer was but I enjoyed the story all the same. I wasn’t really keen on Gwenda’s voice and her accent but Miss Marple’s character and June Whitfield’s (who’s perfect for this role) performance definitely makes up for it. It’s a perfect recording for a rainy afternoon spent indoors with a mug of tea and a warm blanket and I thoroughly enjoyed it.