Published by Harper Collins
Publication date – 3 August 2017 (latest version – not the version I read)
Source – own copy
A beautiful heiress is fatally poisoned in a West End restaurant…
Six people sit down to dinner at a table laid for seven. In front of the empty place is a sprig of rosemary in solemn memory of Rosemary Barton who died at the same table exactly one year previously. No one present on that fateful night would ever forget the woman’s face, contorted beyond recognition or what they remembered about her astonishing life.
Many years ago I spent many a pleasant hour reading my way through Agatha Christie’s work. I of course fell for her famous Belgian detective and her wily old lady who pitted their wits against a variety of corking criminals. Granted some of my memories of those stories have now merged with the TV adaptations but I still aim to read them all, again or for the first time.
One of the ones I can’t remember reading, or seeing is Sparkling Cyanide. Rosemary Burton dies at her birthday party, drinking champagne laced with cyanide. Deemed a suicide her friends and family slowly get used to life without her. But then her husband organising a dinner at the same restaurant, with the same guests, and one place left empty, with just a sprig of rosemary at the empty seat.
I’d picked up this book unsure if I wanted to read it, or any book. I soon found myself caught up in the story. Agatha Christie is a best selling author for a reason, even 40 years after her death. She is a consummate story teller. Her stories are very much character driven, each studies in human nature and the human psyche, exploring what makes humans act in an inhuman way. There are only so many motives for murder and only so many methods yet Agatha Christie managed to make each one unique. Here the method is poison, one she has used in numerous novels, but the process is cleverly done.
There is very much a closed room feel to Sparkling Cyanide. There are a limited number of suspects, those being the guests at the party. Each character is introduced though their own chapters so the reader gains more knowledge about them, both directly from their individual sections but from the opinions of the other characters.
The clues are laid, misdirected and altered. I had immense examining the different suspects, discarding some as the story progressed, weighing up the evidence and the clues against each character to establish whodunit.
There is something genteel about Agatha Christie novels. I have heard them mentioned as comfort reading and I can see why. The characters tend to be clear cut, even the less than salubrious ones. The murders are in a controlled environment and the culprit or culprits usually get their comeuppance.
I thoroughly enjoyed Sparkling Cyanide and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Agatha Christie’s vast collection of novels and short stories.
About the author
Agatha Christie was born in Torquay in 1890 and became, quite simply, the best-selling novelist in history. Her first novel, ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’, written towards the end of the First World War, introduced us to Hercule Poirot, who was to become the most popular detective in crime fiction since Sherlock Holmes. She is known throughout the world as the Queen of Crime. Her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and another billion in 44 foreign languages. She is the author of 80 crime novels and short story collections, 19 plays, and six novels under the name of Mary Westmacott and saw her work translated into more languages than Shakespeare. Her enduring success, enhanced by many film and TV adaptations, is a tribute to the timeless appeal of her characters and the unequalled ingenuity of the plots.
This was book 16 in my #20BooksofSummer challenge.