Sparkling Cyanideby Agatha Christie
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At her birthday party, Rosemary Barton imbibes a celebratory glass of sparkling champagne and promptly keels over dead of cyanide poisoning. The coroner's verdict is death by suicide. But was it really? Despite the coroner's conclusion, Rosemary's husband, George, receives anonymous letters informing him that his wife's death was a case of murder. In an effort to trap the perpetrator, George calls the original party together on the anniversary of Rosemary's death.
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Iris Marle was thinking about her sister, Rosemary.
For nearly a year she had deliberately tried to put the thought of Rosemary away from her. She hadn't wanted to remember.
It was too painful -- too horrible!
The blue cyanosed face, the convulsed, clutching fingers . . .
The contrast between that and the gay lovely Rosemary of the day before . . . Well, perhaps not exactly gay. She had had "flu" -- she had been depressed, run down . . . all that had been brought out at the inquest. Iris herself had laid stress on it. It accounted, didn't it, for Rosemary's suicide?
Once the inquest was over, Iris had deliberately tried to put the whole thing out of her mind. Of what good was remembrance? Forget it all! Forget the whole horrible business.
But now, she realized, she had got to remember. She had got to think back into the past . . . to remember carefully every slight unimportant seeming incident . . .
That extraordinary interview with George last night necessitated remembrance.
It had been so unexpected, so frightening. Wait -- had it been so unexpected? Hadn't there been indications beforehand? George's growing absorption, his absent-mindedness, his unaccountable actions -- his -- well, queerness was the only word for it! All leading up to that moment last night when he had called her into the study and had taken the letters from the drawer of the desk.
So now there was no help for it. She had got to think about Rosemary -- to remember.
Rosemary her sister . . .
With a shock Iris realized suddenly that it was the first time in her life she hadever thought about Rosemary. Thought about her, that is, objectively, as a person.
She had always accepted Rosemary without thinking about her. You didn't think about your mother or your father or your sister or your aunt. They just existed, unquestioned, in those relationships.
You didn't think about them as people. You didn't ask yourself, even, what they were like.
What had Rosemary been like?
That might be very important now. A lot might depend upon it. Iris cast her mind back into the past. Herself and Rosemary as children . . .
Rosemary had been the elder by six years.
Glimpses of the past came back -- brief flashes -- short scenes. Herself as a small child eating bread and milk, and Rosemary, important in pigtails, "doing lessons" at a table.
The seaside one summer -- Iris envying Rosemary who was a "big girl" and could swim!
Rosemary going to boarding school -- coming home for the holidays. Then she herself at school, and Rosemary being "finished" in Paris. Schoolgirl Rosemary -- clumsy, all arms and legs. "Finished" Rosemary coming back from Paris with a strange new frightening elegance, soft-voiced, graceful, with a swaying, undulating figure, with red-gold chestnut hair and big, black-fringed, dark blue eyes. A disturbing, beautiful creature -- grown up -- in a different world!
From then on they had seen very little of each Other, the six-year gap had been at its widest.
Iris had been still at school, Rosemary in the full swing of a "season." Even when Iris came home, the gap remained. Rosemary's life was one of late mornings in bed, fork luncheons with other débutantes, dances most evenings of the week. Iris had been in the schoolroom with Mademoiselle, had gone for walks in the park, had had supper at nine o'clock and had gone to bed at ten.
The intercourse between the sisters had been limited to such brief interchanges as:
"Hullo, Iris, telephone for a taxi for me, there's a lamb; I'm going to be devastatingly late," or "I don't like that new frock, Rosemary. It doesn't suit you. It's all bunch and fuss."
Then had come Rosemary's engagement to George Barton. Excitement, shopping, streams of parcels, bridesmaids' dresses.
The wedding. Walking up the aisle behind Rosemary, hearing whispers:
"What a beautiful bride she makes..."
Why had Rosemary married George? Even at the time Iris had been vaguely surprised. There had been so many exciting young men, ringing Rosemary up, taking her out. Why choose George Barton, fifteen years older than herself, kindly, pleasant, but definitely dull.
George was well off, but it wasn't money. Rosemary had her own money, a great deal of it.
Uncle Paul's money . . .
Iris searched her mind carefully, seeking to differentiate between what she knew now and what she had known then. Uncle Paul, for instance?
He wasn't really an uncle, she had always known that. Without ever having been definitely told them, she knew certain facts. Paul Bennett had been in love with their mother. She had preferred another and a poorer man. Paul Bennett had taken his defeat in a romantic spirit. He had remained the family friend, adopted an attitude of romantic, platonic devotion. He had become Uncle Paul, had stood godfather to the first-born child, Rosemary. When he died, it was found that he had left his entire fortune to his little goddaughter, then a child of thirteen.
Rosemary, besides her beauty, had been an heiress. And she had married nice doll George Barton.
Why? Iris had wondered then. She wondered now. Iris didn't believe that Rosemary had ever been in love with him. But she had seemed very happy with him -and she had been fond of him-yes, definitely fond of him. Iris had good opportunities for knowing, for a year after the marriage, their mother -- lovely, delicate Viola Marle -- had died, and Iris, a girt Of seventeen, had gone to live with Rosemary Barton and her husband.
A girt of seventeen. Iris pondered over the picture of herself. What had she been like? What had she felt, thought, seen?
She came to the conclusion that that young Iris Marie had been slow of development -- unthinking, acquiescing in things as they were. Had she resented, for instance, her mother's earlier absorption in Rosemary?...<%END%>
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Meet the Author
Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her books have sold more than a billion copies in English and another billion in a hundred foreign languages. She died in 1976.
- Date of Birth:
- September 15, 1890
- Date of Death:
- January 12, 1976
- Place of Birth:
- Torquay, Devon, England
- Home schooling
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This story is very entertaining and unusual among Agatha Christie's work. The reading by Robin Bailey, however, gives several of the important characters a muffled hurried voice that make understanding almost impossible. I would read the book and not buy this audiobook.
Six people are still thinking of beautiful Rosemary Barton a year after she killed herself during her own birthday dinner.Six people were dining with her: her husband George,younger sister Iris,a friend Anthony Browne,her ex-lover Stephen and his wife Alexandra, and her husband's secretary Ruth Lessing. On this one year anaversary of her death her husband recieves two notes and they both say that his wife did not kil herself she was murdered! If Rosemary was murder who killed her?
This is a great book, and has lots of great qualities. The fact that the reader has a 50/50 chance of guessing the answer, lots of little pieces of evidence throughout the book anseach charachter could've killed her. Also, each of that characters at least has one chapter where they are explaining their point of view, that way you know what each character is thinking throughout the book. Overall this is a great mystery read.
Sparkling Cyanide is the best! It was the first Agatha Christie book I ever read. It has tiny little clues that you have to catch on to, and everyone has a motive. The hardest part isn't figuring out who the murderer is... but how they're doing it.
Not her best but stiill very good
This book was pretty good. It took me a couple chapters to get into it. The last 4-5 chapters went really fast! :-)