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Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle; she died young.
~ Dr. Kennedy, quoting a line from The Duchess of Malfi while strangling Helen

Dr. James Alfred Kennedy, or better known as Dr. James Kennedy, is the main antagonist of Dame Agatha Christie's posthumously-released 1976 novel Sleeping Murder: Miss Marple's Last Case, or simply known as Sleeping Murder, which is Dame Christie's final published novel and the finale of Miss Marple series. As such, he is the final antagonist of Miss Marple series and the entire detective fiction shared universe of Dame Christie as a whole.

He was portrayed by the late Frederick Treves in the 1987 film adaptation, and was portrayed by Phil Davis in Agatha Christie's Marple, which adapted the novel in 2006 (albeit not as the series finale). Phil Davis also portrayed Lucius Petrus Dextrus in the Doctor Who episode "The Fires of Pompeii" and Jeff Hope in the Sherlock episode "A Study in Pink". He was voiced by Julian Glover in BBC Radio 4's 2001 radio adaptation.

History

Dr. James Kennedy is the half-brother of the story's primary victim, Helen Halliday, and the step-uncle of her step-daughter, Gwenda. It was revealed that Helen never actually ran away from her husband and step-daughter. In fact, Helen was murdered by her own half-brother, Dr. James Kennedy, who had developed an one-sided feeling of twisted love and attempted to have an incestuous relationship with her. However, Helen married her later husband and tried to leave her twisted brother.

Dr. Kennedy was infuriated by this and strangled Helen to death, but the child Gwenda happened to see it upstairs. After Gwenda was sent away, Dr. Kennedy killed her nanny and poisoned her father with gaslight, driving Gwenda's father to become insane. He hid away with Helen's body and made it appeared that Gwenda's father went insane and killed his wife before ended up dying in a mental asylum. It was also revealed that he poisoned Leonie, Gwenda's nanny, who also happened to witness a glimpse of the crime, with the medicine he gave her. The two letters he showed to Marple turned out to be forgeries made by him, in order to misled the private detective.

Nearly twenty years later, when Marple arrived to him in order to seek out Helen's whereabouts, Dr. Kennedy used two forged letters to claim that his sister was still alive. He then faked his sadness and tried to "help" Marple to seek out Helen's whereabouts, but in secret, he planned this.

During Marple's attempt to search for Helen's maid, Lily Abbott Kimble, Dr. Kennedy had received the call from Lily herself and believed she had arrived to blackmail him. He gave her false advice and misled her into the woods, before he set out to kill him. After disposing of Lily's body, Dr. Kennedy switched his letter to Lily and went home, knowing the police would see through his scheme. He sent the nanny Leonie home with medicines that killed her.

Pretending that nothing happened, Dr. Kennedy prepared the poisoned brandy to kill off Gwenda. Nevertheless, that failed as well when Helen's family cook took a sip of poison by mistake, driving her hospitalized. In a last ditch to get rid of Gwenda, Dr. Kennedy finally decided to kill Gwenda by strangling her, but he failed, thanks to Marple who foresaw the event and deduced the true identity of the murderer due to the forged letters. Revealing herself from the garden, Marple stopped Dr. Kennedy by spraying soap foams on his eyes, saving Gwenda and exposing his heinous crimes and sick motivations.

Victims

  • Body counts: 4+
    • Helen Spenlove Halliday (née Kennedy)
    • Kelvin Halliday
    • Leonie
    • Lily Abbott Kimble
    • Mrs. Cocker (indirectly, survived)
    • Gwenda Halliday Reed (attempted but failed)

Trivia

  • Dr. Kennedy is the only culprit in Agatha Christie's novels that committing murder for his failed attempt to get involved into an incestuous relationship with a sibling. However, if the adaptation is count, then David Hunter in Agatha Christie's Poirot shares the same catalyst.
  • In Agatha Christie's Marple, Dr. Kennedy behaves much less insane than that in the novel. Unlike in the original novel, he never attempts to kill Gwenda even after Marple exposed his crime in front of other characters.

Navigation

            
MarpleLogo Villains

Murderers
Anne Protheroe | Charlotte Blacklock | Dr. James Kennedy | Elvira Blake | Lance Fortescue | Josie Turner | Lucky Dyson | Mark Gaskell | Tim Kendall

Villainous Victims
Colonel Protheroe | Ella Zielinsky | Giuseppe | Heather Badcock | Lucky Dyson | Rex Fortescue | Victoria

Others
Jane Helier | Lady Sedgwick

ITV Series Exclusive
Original Characters & Adaptational Culprits
Brigit Milford | Tilly Rice
Originated from non-Marple stories
Adelaide Jefferson | Charles Burnaby | Helen Kennedy Halliday | Greta Andersen | Jacko Argyle | Kirsten Lindholm | Rachel Argyle | Michael Rogers | Miss Bligh | Moira Nicholson | Mrs. Lancaster | Nevile Strange | Paul Osborne | Roger Bassington-ffrench | Sir Phillip Starke

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