Sparkling Cyanide

Sparkling Cyanide

by Agatha Christie


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In Sparkling Cyanide, Agatha Christie seats six—including a murderer—around a dining table set for seven, one year to the day that a beautiful heiress was poisoned in that very room.

Six people sit down to a sumptuous meal at a table laid for seven. In front of the empty place is a sprig of rosemary—"rosemary for remembrance." A strange sentiment considering no one is likely to forget the night, exactly a year ago, that Rosemary Barton died at exactly the same table, her beautiful face unrecognizable, convulsed with pain and horror.

But then Rosemary had always been memorable—she had the ability to arouse strong passions in most people she met. In one case, strong enough to kill. . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062074386
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/17/2012
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 122,086
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About 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, after a prolific career spanning six decades.

Date of Birth:

September 15, 1890

Date of Death:

January 12, 1976

Place of Birth:

Torquay, Devon, England


Home schooling

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


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?...


What People are Saying About This

Alan Bradley

“Agatha Christie possessed the mind of a serial killer in the body of a quiet and refined Englishwoman. Don’t be fooled—she’s deadly!”

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Sparkling Cyanide 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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?
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good show
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
JulesJones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This edition is an abridged audiobook on 3 CDs, running time about 3 hours, read by Nigel Anthony. According to LibraryThing, it's the last of four novels featuring Colonel Race.A year ago, a group of people sat down to dinner around a table in the Luxembourg table. One of them was dead by cyanide at the end of the evening, apparently a suicide. But Rosemary's husband tells a friend that he has come to believe that she was murdered, and has set a trap for the murderer in the form of a remembrance dinner on the anniversary of her death. It's a trap that will be sprung in the worst possible way, leaving his friend Colonel Race to tease out the clues -- before a third murder is committed.In a series of flashbacks, Christie shows how each of the people around the table that night had a motive for murdering Rosemary, including her husband. As the action moves forward to the anniversary dinner and its aftermath, each character study is developed further, shedding new light on people's behaviour but often only changing their motive rather than removing it. Race has a problem on his hands -- there is an abundance of suspects for each murder, but any individual suspect really only has all three of method, motive and opportunity for one of the murders. And yet the murders are clearly linked...The solution to the mystery is simple in hindsight, but well concealed by the array of convincing motives on offer. And even when Colonel Race finally understands the pattern of events, the suspense continues, because the pattern points to one more murder that must take place.The mystery is an enjoyable way to pass a few hours, and the book is by and large well read by Anthony. I did find his reading of female characters' dialogue slightly irritating, as he used a slightly falsetto voice which simply sounded silly to me and thus pulled me out of the story slightly. But it's an enjoyable audiobook that I'll be happy to listen to again.
mrtall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A highly enjoyable murder mystery, Sparkling Cyanide features none of Agatha Christie's recurring sleuths, but 'sparkles' nonetheless with a cast of familiar but well-drawn characters. A lovely but airheaded young wife has been done in by the eponymous poison, and who's to blame? The list of suspects comprises several highly-plausible possibilities, featuring the victim's cuckolded husband, plus her uneasy lover and his iron-willed wife.The story is excellent for period detail (1940s) and for strong pacing and dialogue. The only downside is the ending, which is satisfactory in 'whodunit' terms, but disappointing in its technicalities.Never the less, this one's recommended.
jnicholson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As with many of Christie's novels, this is less a murder mystery than it is a romance. This is one of the more satisfying, told from the point of view of each of the suspects in turn. I particularly enjoyed the character of Sandra Faraday.
riverwillow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is another one of those mysteries where the original murder happened in the past and somehow the story needs to be untangled. This is another one of those books where there is an element of romance, which feels less contrived than some of her other books. Parts of the story are also focalised through different characters and the change in perspective makes this an interesting and entertaining read.
smik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
SPARKLING CYANIDE is very carefully constructed, beginning with 5 people remembering the death of Rosemary Barton from cyanide poisoning just a a year before. The coroner brought a verdict of suicide, but recently George, her husband, has received notes leading him to think that perhaps Rosemary was murdered. There seem to be any number of possible murderers.George decides to set a trap, to hold another celebration at the same nightclub, this time for the birthday of Rosemary's sister Iris. The empty place at the table on the night of Rosemary's death had been for Colonel Johnny Race who had been unable to get there. George Barton had known Colonel Race in India. George invites Race to Iris' birthday party but Race refuses the invitation. Nevertheless George tells everyone that the empty place is for Colonel Race.When George also dies from cyanide poisoning Colonel Race assists Chief Inspector Kemp from Scotland Yard to work out who is the murderer and what the motive is.Colonel Race also appears in THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT (1924), CARDS ON THE TABLE (1936) and DEATH ON THE NILE (1937). It is unusual for him to appear on his own, as he is generally plays a supporting role for others like Hercule Poirot. By SPARKLING CYANIDE he is quite elderly.
GaylDasherSmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Old fashioned with often cardboard characters, but nobody keeps you guessing like old Agatha.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was, originally, a Poirot short story. Christie did this more than once. She would take one of her plausible red herrings, tweak some things, and create a different take on a story. The solution may or may not be the same.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not her best but stiill very good
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty good. It took me a couple chapters to get into it. The last 4-5 chapters went really fast! :-)
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great christie!