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Sparkling Cyanide  
Sparkling Cyanide US First Edition Cover 1945.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration of the US (true first) edition. See Publication history (below) for UK first edition jacket image.
Author Agatha Christie
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Crime novel
Publisher Dodd, Mead and Company
Publication date February 1945
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 209 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN NA
Preceded by Death Comes as the End
Followed by The Hollow

Sparkling Cyanide is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in February 1945 under the title of Remembered Death[1] and in UK by the Collins Crime Club in the December of the same year under Christie's original title[2]. The US edition retailed at $2.00[1] and the UK edition at eight shillings and sixpence (8/6)[2].

The book features the recurring character of Colonel Race and was an expansion of a Hercule Poirot short story entitled Yellow Iris which had previously been published in issue 559 of the Strand Magazine in July 1937 and in book form in The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories in the US in 1939. It was published in the UK in Problem at Pollensa Bay in 1991. The full-length novel omits the character of Poirot.

The novel uses the basics of the short story, including the method of the poisoning, but changes the identity of the culprit(s) - not for the first time, when Agatha Christie rewrote her own work.

Contents

Plot summary

One year ago on November 2, seven people sat down to dinner at the Luxembourg. One of them, Rosemary Barton, never got up. She was thought to have committed suicide due to post-flu depression. Her husband, George Barton, received anonymous letters saying that Rosemary did not kill herself but was murdered. George started to investigate and decided to reconstruct the dinner at the same restaurant, inviting the same people, except that he had asked an actress who looked like his late wife to come too - but that actress never did, and instead George died, in the same way Rosemary did - cyanide in his glass. His death could have been dismissed as suicide too but his friend Colonel Race investigated. The intended victim was actually Rosemary's sister, Iris - who was now a rich 18-year old, having inherited the money from Rosemary (the money did not pass to her husband because the uncle who left the money to Rosemary willed that the money was to go to Iris if Rosemary died childless, which she did). If she had died, her fortune would have gone to Victor Drake, a cousin who plotted her death together with Ruth Lessing, George's secretary. However, the wrong person died, because when the group went off to dance, Iris dropped her bag, and a young waiter retrieved the bag and placed it one seat away from her actual seat. Hence when Iris returned from the dance to sit down, she was not sitting at her original place. As a result, George sat at her original place, drank her poisoned glass of drink and died in her stead. Ruth had even left a pack of cyanide in Iris' bag, just like she did in Rosemary's case, to re-stage another death by suicide. Victor was disguised as a guest sitting at a nearby table with a blonde. At one stage, he disguised himself as a waiter to introduce the cyanide to Iris' glass. Not giving up, Victor Drake and Ruth even tried to run Iris down with a car but Iris did not realise her life was in danger as everyone still thought that George was the intended murder victim, apparently murdered by Rosemary murderer to stop him from unveiling the truth. Eventually, Colonel Race together with Kemp (police) and Anthony Browne, suitor of Iris, unravelled the truth and saved Iris from being gassed to death - Ruth had hit Iris on the head and arranged her in Iris' room to make Iris appear as if she committed suicide by gassing herself in her room. The anonymous letters to George were sent by Ruth, to induce him to re-stage the dinner at Luxembourg so that Victor and Ruth could re-stage death by suicide of Iris.

Literary significance and reception

The book was not reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement.

Maurice Richardson, in the January 13, 1946 issue of The Observer wrote, "Agatha Christie readers are divided into two groups: first, fans like me who will put up with any amount of bamboozling for the sake of the pricking suspense, the close finish, six abreast, of the suspect race, and the crashing chord of the trick solution; second, knockers who complain it isn't cricket and anyway there's nothing to it.
Fans, I guarantee will be quite happy with Sparkling Cyanide, a high income group double murder, first of wayward smarty Rosemary, second of dull husband George at his lunatic reconstruction-of-the-crime party. It is too forced to rank with her best Number One form, but the suspect race is up to scratch and readability is high. Making allowances for six years of spam and cataclysm, quite a credible performance."[3]

An unnamed reviewer in the Toronto Daily Star of February 24, 1945 said, "Suspense is well maintained and suspicion well divided. While this mystery lacks Hercule Poirot, it should nevertheless please all Agatha Christie fans, especially those who like the murders in the fast, sophisticated set."[4]

Robert Barnard: "Murder in the past, previously accepted as suicide. Upper-class tart gets her come-uppance in smart London restaurant, and husband later suffers the same fate. Compulsively told, the strategies of deception smart as a new pin, and generally well up to 'forties standard. But the solution takes more swallowing than cyanided champagne."[5]

Film, TV and theatrical adaptations

In 1983, CBS adapted the book for television, set in the modern day, and without Colonel Race.

In late 2003 it was loosely adapted by Laura Lamson for ITV1, again in a modern setting, and involving a football manager's wife's murder. In this adaptation Colonel Race was renamed Colonel Reece, and given a partner, Dr. Catherine Kendall. The byplay between Reece and Kendall was somewhat similar to Christie's characters Tommy and Tuppence.

Publication history

Dustjacket illustration of the UK First Edition (Book was first published in the US)
  • 1945, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), February 1945, Hardback, 209 pp
  • 1945, Collins Crime Club (London), December 1945, Hardback, 160 pp
  • 1947, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback (Pocket number 451)
  • 1955, Pan Books, Paperback, 159 pp (Pan number 345)
  • 1955, Pan Books, Paperback, (Great Pan 156)
  • 1960, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 160 pp
  • 1978, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 358 pp ISBN 0708902235

The novel's first true publication was the serialisation in The Saturday Evening Post in eight instalments from July 15 (Volume 216, Number 3) to September 2, 1944 (Volume 217, Number 10) under the title Remembered Death with illustrations by Hy Rubin.

The novel was first serialised, heavily abridged, in the UK in the Daily Express starting on Monday, July 9, 1945 and running for eighteen instalments until Saturday, July 28. The first instalment carried an uncredited illustration[6].

References

  1. ^ a b American Tribute to Agatha Christie
  2. ^ a b Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 15)
  3. ^ The Observer January 13, 1946 (Page 3)
  4. ^ Toronto Daily Star February 24, 1945 (Page 16)
  5. ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie - Revised edition (Page 205). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0-00-637474-3
  6. ^ Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers - Colindale). Shelfmark: NPL LON LD3 and NPL LON MLD3.

External links

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