Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is like the Law and Order or the NCIS of books. There are some novels that are better or worse than others, but the quality is generally consistent and you know that you haven’t wasted your time when you pick one up because you know what you’re in for.

This isn’t a Poirot or a Marple but, like all Agatha Christie novels, it’s very structured. The perspectives of each of the suspects were provided and no new character was introduced as the antagonist. A couple of red herrings are thrown in but you know not to take them seriously. The crime is committed in the first half of the novel so the second half can be dedicated to the police investigation, and there’s the dramatic reveal at the ending, allowing all the characters to go back to living their lives. There’s also the sly reference to just how unrealistic crime novels are which, I know is overused, but never gets old for me.

As previously mentioned, I love all of Agatha’s little social commentary, and I really do think this is what contributes to the lasting success of her novels. Although her novels are a representation of their time period, with the attitudes of, there are some comments that really is a case of The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same. I really liked this interaction between Iris (the victim’s younger sister) and Anthony (a man of questionable background), about Stephen (a politician):

‘He always seems to me,’ said Iris, ‘rather pompous and stupid.’

‘He’s not at all stupid. He’s just one of the usual unhappy successes.’

‘Unhappy?’

‘Most successes are unhappy, That’s why they are successes – they have to reassure themselves about themselves by achieving something that the world will notice.’

‘What extraordinary ideas you have, Anthony.’

‘You’ll find they’re quite true if you only examine them. The happy people are failures because they are on such good terms with themselves that they don’t give a damn. Like me. They are also usually agreeable to get on with – again like me.’

I liked the characters in this one. I liked the intensity of the relationships between each of the players and Rosemary, the victim. The relationship felt very real and each character is described in a way that makes you think ‘Yes! I know someone like that’. I loved how Agatha was able to develop each character and their opinions of the other suspects just from their descriptions of each other, because I always prefer the ‘Show, don’t tell’ method. I hated the denouement though, I didn’t like the motive and it felt like such a waste of character development.

There isn’t much for me to comment on. I’ve been reading too many Agatha Christie’s and because they are all the same, I do feel like I’m repeating myself. I hashed out this one in less than thirty minutes so maybe I’ll take a break for a while and venture into something else for a while to stretch myself.

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