As the days begin to get shorter and colder, I find myself craving not only a good book but one that will spook, challenge, and delight me. Murder mysteries are perfect for such occasions and there are no murder mysteries more perfect than those of Agatha Christie. Agatha Christie is known as one of the most prolific murder mystery authors of all time; her collection of novels and short stories spans decades and presents new and intriguing plots with familiar detectives for the audience to come to know and love. With many of her stories being adapted into films (the most recent being A Haunting in Venice which premiered October 2023), I have found myself eager to read her work more and more. I recently picked up Sparkling Cyanide and was not disappointed.
Sparkling Cyanide was published in 1945 and follows the main character, Iris, who learns at the start of the novel that she is the sole beneficiary of her sister Rosemary’s will. While the police ruled Rosemary’s death a suicide there is reason for Iris and others to be doubtful as she grapples with “how little one knew of one’s own sister!” When Iris finds an unsent letter in her late sister’s dressing gown that hints at an affair, a mystery unfolds concerning the actual cause of Rosemary’s untimely death.
Sparkling Cyanide is a quintessential example of everything Agatha Christie is known and loved for: compelling characters, quick-moving scenes, and a twist ending that leaves the audience wanting to reread the book the moment they’ve finished. An apparent double suicide is framed by the seemingly idyllic nature of upper-class social politics and all the secrecy inherent in the characters’ culture. The fast-paced interactions between characters hint that not everything is being said, and no one is completely honest with one another. This style of dialogue between characters captivates the audience and invites them to attempt to solve the mystery alongside the detective, something that I enjoy about every one of Christie’s works. With an expansive cast of six suspects, the audience is never given the chance to truly know a character’s motives and goals, a key element to a quick-moving murder mystery that I believe Christie excels at in this book. Christie keeps her audience guessing by maintaining a distance from them until the final climactic moment when everything finally shatters to a halt.
As a lover of murder mysteries, I found this book engaging and fun to read, with the perfect amount of confusion laced throughout to keep me chasing the next clue until the very end.
—Jency Crookston, Inscape Staff