Saturday 13 July 2019

Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie (1945)

I've been on a crime spree lately: Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, Ngaio Marsh, and now Agatha Christie.
This is one of Agatha Christie’s books where Poirot and Miss Marple aren’t involved and I’ve tended to enjoy these books more. (See The Man in the Brown Suit, for example.)

A year after Rosemary Barton’s death at an evening party at a high class London restaurant, the six people who were present on the night of her death are gathered together again at the request of her husband, George.
The cause of her death had been put down to suicide but George had reason to believe that this was not the case. On the first anniversary of her death he sets up a similar scenario hoping to bring the cause of her death to light. However, things go horribly awry and another death occurs. Is this a suicide or is there a murderer among them?

Colonel Race, a canny former associate of George’s, becomes involved in the unfolding events and the subsequent investigation, but the actual solution to the mystery is brought about by a most unlikely character.

Sparkling Cyanide shows off Christie’s mastery of misdirection. I really enjoyed this book and was kept in suspense right up to the last few pages. A very satisfying mystery made all the more enjoyable because unlike the last Christie I read, (And Then There Were None) there were a number of very likeable characters in this story that I hoped weren’t murderers!

‘He looked at her with eyes from which the last traces of scales had fallen. A lovely creature with the brains of a hen! He’d been mad - utterly and completely mad. But he was sane again now. And he’d got to get out of this fix. Unless he was careful she’d ruin his whole life.’

‘A wasp was buzzing close at hand. He stared abstractedly. It had got inside a cut glass jampot and as trying to get out.
Like me, he thought, entrapped by sweetness and now - he can’t get out, poor devil.'

I’ve spent some time reading and thinking about the development of the moral imagination so this jumped out at me as I read it:

‘...(She) has the calm practical efficiency that can contemplate and carry out murder, and that perhaps lacks that quality of pity which is essentially a product of imagination.’

I’d never heard of this title, but I have been a late comer to Agatha Christie’s books, so I was pleased that it was an enjoyable read and I’d happily recommend it as a good one to try if you haven’t already read it.


Brian Joseph said...

I have been meaning to read Agatha Christie for years. My wife is a fan though. This one sounds good but I will probably start with one of the more famous books.

mudpuddle said...

i liked this a lot; AC rarely disappoints...

Carol said...

Hi Brian, I think my first Christie was 'Murder on the Orient Express or maybe Death on the Nile??

Carol said...

Hi Mudpuddle, Im surprised that I'd never heard ot this one before I found it the other day.

FictionFan said...

For some reason, I thought this was a Poirot one. I felt sure I remembered David Suchet doing it. On checking, it seems it's an expansion of a short story The Yellow Iris, which did have Poirot in it. I wonder why she dumped him for the full-length version...

Carol said...

So The Yellow iris was made into a play...I just read this:

Sharon Wilfong said...

I have a lot of Christie on my list, my favorites are with Hercule Poirot and I really like David Suchet's TV series better than Christie's writing, which is unusual for me. I find that the series made the characters more interesting and complex than the books.

It's funny you say you are on a crime spree. Mysteries are my weekend reads. Because of one of your reviews I impulse bought a Ngaio Marsh and loved it so much that I got 27 of her novels, via my husband, on ebay for a song. My husband may never read them, but he can't resist the rush of out bidding others.

I'm excited about reading them.

Do you read any American writers like Erle Stanley Gardner? They are different in style, but fun. I like Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe and Gardner's Donald Lam and Bertha Cool mysteries.

Ruthiella said...

Re: fiction fan's comment above, I think Christie used the plot twice because the Yellow Iris is a Poirot short story but sounds very similar to Sparkling Cyanide. She did the same thing (both times with Poirot!) with the short story The Triangle at Rhodes and Evil under the Sun.

I may will check it out myself soon. I've been on a bit of a Christie kick this year and I can access the audio book of Sparkling Cyanide which might be fun.

Carol said...

Hi Sharon, great to hear that your husband is supporting your book passions! We picked up 4 NM books this morning and a number of Agatha Christie books we didn’t have.
I tried one of Gardner’s stories but didn’t really click with it & have read Fer de Lance by Stout. I liked that & would like to read some more. I’ve never seen his books for sale here & had to buy that book online new. What Stout books would you recommend?

Carol said...

Hi Ruthiella, my 14 yr old is enjoying A.C’s books. She reads so quickly that it’s hard to keep in her good supply but at least Christie was prolific!