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.