Friday, October 12, 2012

Forgotten Book: Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie

Can any book by Agatha Christie be considered as a forgotten book? This week at Patti Abbot's blog, the focus is on finding a forgotten book by an author who outsells almost all other writers and whose books are still in print while her contemporaries (some of them absolutely brilliant) languish in obscurity. Quite a challenge.


I came to Agatha Christie after my tryst with Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, and Three Investigators. And then for a long time, it was only Christie and Perry Mason. Today, I am going to post about a book that I found marvellous when I first read it years ago, whose story I still remember, but which I do not find discussed too often: Sparkling Cyanide, a novel first published in 1945.




 The wiki entry tells me that it was published as Remembered Death in the US.



Seven people sit down to have a dinner at a restaurant. However, one of them breathes her last at the table. Rosemary Baton is thought to have committed suicide as she was depressed after a long bout of flu. Months after her death, her husband George Barton [fifteen years her senior and whom she had married because he was nice and funny and sweet and thought of her as wonderful] starts receiving anonymous letters stating that Rosemary had not committed suicide but had rather been murdered. Determined to find his wife's killer, he hosts a dinner on her death anniversary in the same restaurant. The five guests of the earlier party too are invited while an actress is supposed to impersonate Rosemary. However, things do not go as per plan as the actress never turns up, and George falls dead from cyanide poisoning as soon as he drinks from his glass of wine.



So, who is it who wanted the Bartons out of his/ her way? The suspects range from Rosemary's sister Iris, to George's devoted secretary Ruth, to the MP Stephan Farraday with whom Rosemary had an affair, to Anthony Browne, a man with a shady past...all of them were present on both the occasions...



This was amongst the first books of Christie that I ever read and remains a favourite till date. I remember liking the characters of George and Ruth. So many years down the line, would I still like them? Sometimes one really feels like re-reading certain books, now if only there was time enough...





14 comments:

  1. Next to the accident that happens in her very first book that causes an mistaken murder the one in this book, I think, is one of the most ingenious and real plot devices she ever dreamed up. You can certainly imagine it happening in real life unlike some of her other preposterous plots. She enjoyed it so much she used it twice! This novel is an expansion of a similarly plotted story with Poirot called "The Yellow Iris." It's a very good non-series book that ought to be better known. Good choice!

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    1. Thank You so much John. I suppose I must have read Yellow Iris once upon a time, but I simply do not remember it now. I want to re-read it though.

      I totally agree that the twist in the plot was ingenious. What is that about the best laid plans....?

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  2. Neer, you reminded me of a Christie novel I read several years ago and your review brought back memories of this well-narrated mystery. I like it when Christie's mysteries are set in public places, a concept that has been used variously since. The REMEMBERED DEATH cover is terrific. By the way, John has pricked my curiosity with mention of THE YELLOW IRIS.

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    1. Yes, that cover is terrific.

      Even I want to (re)read Yellow Iris now esp since the wiki entry tells me that the culprit in that story was different!

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  3. Good chopice Neer - the books without her main recurring series characters tend to get short thrift and this one, along with TOWARDS ZERO, CROOKED HOUSE and ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE really stands out for me.

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    1. Thanks Sergio.

      Some of her stand-alones are really terrific. The Sittaford Mystery being another one that comes to mind.

      I am so glad this book is so well-loved.

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  4. CROOKED HOUSE and ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE were Christie's own favourite mysteries.

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    1. Thanks for the info Prashant. I had no idea. I didn't like Ordeal by Innocence much and have kind of forgotten about Crooked House, though it's a book I am planning to re-read.

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  5. I agree as well that is a book that deserves to be better known. I loved it when I read it but I admit I haven't re-read it lately. The story is very familiar though. And the denouement, if I'm remembering correctly, was one of Christie's more daring solutions.

    Actually it sort of reminds of THIRTEEN AT DINNER or am I getting things mixed up - wouldn't be the first time.

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    1. Yvette, the plot is extremely ingenious. If you haven't read it lately, give it a go. I remember re-reading Evil Under the Sun and enjoying it tremendously as I had completely forgotten about the identity of the murderer and his/her modus-operandi. Incidentally, that is also one of my favourites (and I guess of many others).

      I have forgotten about Thirteen at Dinner, so really can't say. I also tend to get confused at times.

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  6. Neeru,

    You brought back so many memories. Do you still have that Christie encyclopaedia that we bought from Connaught Place?

    - Nitu

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    1. Nitu di I kept on remembring you while typing the post as you were disgusted at me for liking a character whom you found reprehensible. And we were both fond of George and when you read that he had a moochh, you told me you were not at all put-off since in the picture of him imprinted on your mind was one in which he did not have one. [This was the time when we only liked clean-shaven guys (hope jiju is not reading this)].

      Yes, I still have the Christie encyclopedia. It was such a steal, wasn't it?

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    2. Yes, that encyclopaedia was indeed a steal. It used to fun to buy books from Connaught Place. Remember "Bolne Wali Rajai"?

      I read yesterday that Australia has many second-hand book shops. Yay!

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