Thursday, August 31, 2023

Sparkling Cyanide

 Sparkling Cyanide (aka Remembered Death; 1945) by Agatha Christie; Read by Hugh Fraser

One year ago, the Bartons held a dinner party at the exclusive Luxembourg restaurant. The lights went down for a cabaret show and when they came up again Rosemary Barton was dead, poisoned by cyanide. Rosemary had been in recovery from flu; a flu that could make the afflicted feel depressed. Her sister Iris also testified that Rosemary had left a paper on her desk indicating how she wanted certain pieces of property left in the event of her death and so the death was ruled a suicide. 

But recently her husband George had begun to wonder if that ruling was correct, especially after he received anonymous notes telling him that Rosemary's death was not a suicide. And so he devises a plan to unmask the killer. It involves hosting another dinner party, with the same guests, and one empty place waiting for a surprise but his plans go awry. Oh, there is a surprise, but definitely not the one George intended...for at the end of the entertainment this time George is the one who dies...from cyanide.

Colonel Johnny Race was meant to be a guest at that first dinner, but he had to cancel at the last minute. Then George Barton tried to get him to come to the most recent dinner, but Race thought George's plan was ill-advised and refused to participate. When George is killed too, Race works with Inspector Kemp to discover who the guilty party is. They soon find that any of those who attended the parties could have had a motive. Iris came into a lot of money when Rosemary died. Stephen Faraday, minor MP, had had an affair with Rosemary and tried to break it off--he faced ruin if she, as she told him she would, gave news of the affair to both George and Stephen's wife Lady Alexandra "Sandra" Faraday. Sandra strikes the men as the type to kill to keep her man. Ruth Lessing, secretary to George Barton, is thought to have been in love with the boss and might have wanted the inconvenient wife out of the way. And Anthony Brown, a mystery man, had also flirted with Rosemary--that is until she revealed that she knew his name wasn't Brown. Then he threatened her to keep her mouth shut..."or else." And, of course, if the murderer of Rosemary had thought that George was getting too close to the truth, then it makes sense that he had to die too. Except--it seems impossible that anyone could have slipped poison into his glass.

Even though I have read this before (long before blogging) and have seen the televised versions of it, Dame Agatha still managed to fool me. This is one of the things I like about her--if it's been long enough I can reread her less well-known titles and still be mystified. I did think about the culprit, but not for the reasons given. I am a little skeptical of the way the poison was introduced to George's drink, but I'm willing to go along with it. Overall, a good mystery and excellently narrated by Hugh Fraser. He manages the different voices for the men superbly. ★★★★

First line: Six people were thinking of Rosemary Barton who had died nearly a year ago.

Last line: And more softly still, "Pray love remember."


Deaths = two poisoned

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