Sparkling Cyanide - Agatha Christie

Whilst we were dancing, the ghost of Rosemary hovers near George’s glass and drops in some cleverly materialized cyanide—any spirit can make cyanide out of ectoplasm. George comes back and drinks her health and—oh, Lord!’

The other two stared curiously at him.

And so am I. I did not enjoy Sparkling Cyanide anywhere near as much as other Christie books, and it is one of the very few where I believe that the tv adaptation (either of the two tv adaptations I have seen – one with Pauline Collins and Oliver Ford Davies, and one with Anthony Andrews) were much more engaging than the book.

Of course, Sparkling Cyanide is nowhere near Christie’s worst book(s) – that honour goes to Passenger to Frankfurt, hands down – but there were a number of aspects that annoyed me:

1. I was bored. This is not a great story to read if you already know who’s dunnit.

2. While I liked the a few of the characters – Lord and Lady Kidderminster and their daughter and son-in-law Sandra and Stephen Farraday – these characters were in the original just no patch on their tv versions – Clare Holman and James Wilby were excellent (!) and I could actually really care for their versions of Sandra and Stephen. Christie’s book versions paled by contrast and I was a little disappointed how wooden and stilted their relationship was depicted.

3. There just seem to be way too many characters in this one. Now, this is a perception only. There probably aren’t any more characters in this than there are in  some of my favourite Christies – Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile or Three Act Tragedy anyone? These have lots of characters but they are very distinct from each other – and they are memorable. The characters in Sparkling Cyanide weren’t. If it had not been for Hugh Fraser’s lovely narration giving each of them a voice (in a manner of speaking), I would have had no feel at all for who was who.

4. The murder. The method (tho with a different element) of murder had been used before, and to my mind, in a much better way. The other story I am thinking of is one of my favourite Christies and reading this re-hash has left me seriously underwhelmed.

Sparkling Cyanide started life as a short story (The Yellow Iris) and is one of several stories that Christie revised for a longer book. In this case, it didn’t work. I actually prefer the short story.

2.5* (out of 5*)


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