Black Coffee (Hercule Poirot Mysteries)

July 3, 2013 - Comment

Nearly a quarter-century after her death, Agatha Christie remains the most popular mystery writer of all time. Now, in a celebrated publishing event, fans and newcomers alike are treated to another Christie novel. Created in 1930 as a stage play and faithfully adapted by Charles Osborne, Black Coffee brings back beloved detective Hercule Poirot to

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Nearly a quarter-century after her death, Agatha Christie remains the most popular mystery writer of all time. Now, in a celebrated publishing event, fans and newcomers alike are treated to another Christie novel. Created in 1930 as a stage play and faithfully adapted by Charles Osborne, Black Coffee brings back beloved detective Hercule Poirot to exercise his “little grey cells” one more deliciously deductive time…

An urgent call from physicist Sir Claud Amory sends famed detective Hercule Poirot rushing from London to a sprawling country estate. Sir Claud fears a member of his own household wants to steal a secret formula destined for the Ministry of Defense. But Poirot arrives too late. The formula is missing. Worse, Sir Claud has been poisoned by his after-dinner coffee. Poirot soon identifies a potent brew of despair, treachery, and deception amid the mansion’s occupants. Now he must find the formula and the killer…while letting no poison slip ‘twix his low lips.
Subtitled A Hercule Poirot Novel, Black Coffee is actually an Agatha Christie play recrafted as a book meant to be read rather than seen on the stage. The story was first produced in 1930, and Charles Osborne has done little to it except string the dialogue and stage directions together in paragraph form. Christie loyalists will welcome and applaud his dedication to the original, but it does seem as though he could have given it a bit more flair. Still, Poirot himself, bumbling Captain Hastings, and obsequious George are all in good form and it is amusing to find them engaged in another adventure, with an interesting assortment of possible murderers, blackmailers, and innocent (if suspicious) bystanders.

The novel opens as Poirot receives a summons at his breakfast table from England’s premier physicist, Sir Claud Amory. Busy working on a new formula necessary for England’s defense in the Second World War, Amory suspects a member of his household of espionage. Of course, by the time Poirot and sidekick Hastings arrive at the scientist’s country house, he is suddenly and mysteriously dead. Amory himself turns out to have been not quite nice, and his family, regardless of his scientific efforts, is pretty pleased with the new state of affairs. Still, Poirot manages both to save the more amiable members of the household from themselves and to protect the secrets of the British Empire. The novel is warmly evocative of another time and place and a welcome reminder of vintage Christie. –K.A. Crouch

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Comments

Mary T. Bowers says:

Agatha Christie’s dead Like a personal friend, our favorite authors have a voice we instinctively identify. We continue to read their books because we want to hear that voice again. Sadly, many of the voices we love are gone forever, and that includes Agatha Christie’s. I found Black Coffee made me sad; it contained all the elements of a Christie — the people, the place, the puzzle — but it just wasn’t right. I found myself mentally correcting the narrative to make it more “Christie-ish,” the way…

Neal J. Pollock says:

1st of the 3 Osborne adaptations This is the 1st book of the 3 Osborne adaptations of Agatha Christie plays into novel form. I think it’s the lowest of the 3 in quality. The 2nd was “The Unexpected Guest,” and the 3rd was “Spider’s Web.” All 3 read more like plays than novels–so if you are expecting the normal Christie novel, you may very well be disappointed. However, if you have read the novels, this is a nice addition to your list of Christie’s and a rare opportunity to envision her plays. True, the plays could just…

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