A Sleeping Life
The tenth wexford novel published by Hutchinson in 1978
On a sultry August evening, the bloody body of a middle-aged woman is discovered beneath a hedge. Two things surprise Chief Inspector Wexford about the murder scene. One is that the only contents of the woman’s handbag are some keys and a wallet containing nothing but some money. And two, how even in death, her deathly grey eyes possess a scornful glare.
The woman turns out to be Rhoda Comfrey, but there’s no murder weapon, no apparent motive, and no one who cares that she died. Wexford’s only hunch is that the clues to her murder must lie in her solitary London life. But her existence there becomes frustratingly impossible to trace.
The wallet found at the crime scene leads Wexford to Grenville West, a historical novelist who bases one of his books on Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Maid’s Tragedy, a Jacobean drama set in classical Rhodes. The book is dedicated to Rhoda Comfrey, and the first two lines are taken from the play.
The character of Enobarbus in Antony and Cleopatra, noble yet capable of treachery, parallels the character of Grenville West in A Sleeping Life. 1
Shortlisted for best novel at the Edgars.
Adapted for TV in 1989.
Contemporary Reads 2
Michael Dibdin - The Last Sherlock Holmes Story
A.S. Byatt - The Virgin in the Garden
Armistead Maupin - Tales of the City
Iris Murdoch - The Sea, The Sea
Alice Miller - The Drama of the Gifted Child
Nicolas Freeling - The Night Lords
Means of Evil: Inside the Mind of Ruth Rendell by Diana Cooper-Clark, The Armchair Detective Vol. 14 Issue 1, Spring 1981 ↩︎
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