While I continued to contemplate potential plot lines, the opening scene of the book, which was inspired by true events, landed in my lap. As I remember the story (and my memory is suspect after more than 20 years), my newlywed friend Matt told me he was having a nightmare one night in which he dreamed he was climbing a rope. As he clung to the rope in his dream, he was unconsciously choking his wife, Chris. Because she’d heard that it’s dangerous to awaken someone who is walking in his sleep, Chris tried to gently wake up Matt even as he was strangling her. We had a good laugh with Chris, whose life was literally being threatened, yet she was more concerned for her sleeping husband.
About a year later in my first year of law school, I learned that unconsciousness is a complete defense to murder. A man cannot commit a crime without some level of mens rea or intent. The sleepwalking plot device was complete: the wife of a man with a propensity for sleepwalking is suffocated in their bed one night—is he truly horrified that he might have killed his wife in his sleep, did he feign sleepwalking to get away with murder, or was he sound asleep while another monster smothered his wife? Find out in Until Murder Do Us Part.