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Black Coffee [Mass Market Paperback]

Agatha Christie , Charles Osborne
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 15 1999 Hercule Poirot Mysteries
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.

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From Amazon

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Christie biographer Osborne's adaptation of the grande dame's 1930 play has been blessed by the Christie estate and heartily endorsed by her grandson Michael Prichard. It's a classic "someone in this room is the murderer" tale set in 1934. Scientist Sir Claud Amory invites Hercule Poirot to his estate to collect a formula for a new atomic explosive. Prior to Poirot's arrival, Sir Claud discovers the formula is missing from his safe. He offers the thief one minute of darkness to return it but, when the lights come on again, Sir Claud is dead. That's when Poirot arrives on the scene and takes matters in hand. An empty vial of sleeping pills is discovered, and someone in the room at the time of Sir Claud's death was seen with the tablets. Was Sir Claud murdered by his son Richard, who is in deep debt? Or was it espionage involving Lucia, Richard's Italian wife with a mysterious past and a connection to guest Dr. Carelli? Perhaps Sir Claud's secretary, Edward Raynor, or the spinster sister Caroline is guilty. Poirot, with "methods very much his own," aided by Captain Hastings, is lively and stimulating, like a fine black coffee, in this welcome addition to the Christie canon.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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HERCULE POIROT SAT AT breakfast in his small agreeably cosy flat in Whitehall Mansions. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Grave Robbing May 25 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Anyone who respects Christie would understand that she wrote BLACK COFFEE as a play (her first) - and, in the theatre, its a sort of minor masterpiece. She often would adapt her novels into plays herself, and occassionaly, vice-versa. She did not choose to 'novelize' Black Coffee - because it belongs in the theatre. (same is true of Unexpected Guest and Spider's Web) Now, we have dreary, hackish "novel' versions of these, of which Christie would doubtless disapprove, written with NO sense of the stage (ie the dialogue is NOT the most important element), a tin ear, and, worse, idiotic 'improvements'. Its sad that people can ransack a dead author's work. Sadder still the estate allows it. On the page, however, it is not as bad as the truly awful audiobook version, with a half-dozen risable accents.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Adaptation of an Agatha Christie play Feb. 11 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Charles Osborne writes the novel "Black Coffee" as an adaptation of Agatha Christie's original play. This is a typical Hercule Poirot mystery with Poirot being called to the home of Sir Claud Amory, a scientist who suspects that someone in his household is trying to steal his secret formula. Poirot arrives just after Sir Claud is poisoned. He knows that the killer had to be someone in the room so he begins his investiation of the the four family members and two others who might be involved. The usual red herrings are thrown out before Poirot reveals the real culprit. This is an average Christie story and doesn't contain any of the clever twists that distinguish her best work.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Review of "Black Coffee" by : Agatha Christie March 13 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book failed in many areas. There was no plot, no suprise ending, no engaging characters. But to explain subsquent terms, the book lacks developement. Personally, I like a book that is straightfowrd, simple and doesn't waste time, and I like suprise ending's and such. Although this book was simple and straightfoward and only took me a day to read, perhaps it was TOO simple and straightfoward. Like I said no suprise ending, no plot or great characters. If you don' believe me read it for yourself.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A commendable effort - but not for purists Jan. 5 2002
By Karl
Since I've never seen the script of the original (1930) play, I cannot comment on the similarity between that script and Charles Osborne's conversion of the play into a novel.

What I can say, is that - IMO - this is a highly commendable piece of fiction (for those who enjoy Agatha Christie-type murder mysteries). Furthermore, unlike his later later play-to-novel conversion "Spider's Web", this text reads like a genuine novel, NOT like a hastily edited play script.

Of course it isn't a perfect example of a 100% genuine Christie novel. Christie was a far more talented writer than her later critics like to admit, and therefore not as easily imitated as one might expect.

In this case, the text occasionally becomes a little too heavy-handed, and the plotting isn't as nearly dense or labyrinthine as in an original Christie novel.

As to giving the game away, I personally prefer to read this kind of book as an entertainment rather than a MENSA examination, and as such I must confess that the passage in question passed almost unnoticed and in no way spoiled my enjoyment.

So "E" for effort to Mr Osborne for this workman-like pastiche. A "lite" but enjoyable read and well worth the price.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Completely Shocked! Aug. 10 2001
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Well, Osborne broke the fundamental, essential rule of mystery writing. Never give away the murderer, at least so early into the story.
It's astounding. I kept expecting some kind of twist at the end to account for that "slip up" and was shocked to discover that there was none!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Agatha Christie gone Charles Osborne...not bad. July 19 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The mystery was excellent, a classic Agatha Christie plot. A mystery where even the least likely person is suspicious and you really don't have ANY idea whom to suspect. It could be him, or her...or him, but it's probably her, no HER... The only downfall? It's not written in Christie's style. It has some classic Poirot references like "the little gray cells" and what not, but the writing style is obviously not hers. It's more adjectival almost...if that makes sense. But an altogether fantastic mystery.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Decaf! May 17 2001
By CMBohn
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Many of the other reviews already said it, what a waste. They should have kept it a play. After all, I've read "The Mousetrap" and "Witness for the Prosecution" as plays, and enjoyed them. But this was so painfully drawn out. The characters were one-dimensional, Poirot was a cariacture of himself, and I guessed the murderer before anyone even died! I didn't give it one star, because it would probably be better if you've never read any Christie, and didn't know the difference.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Reads too much like a play April 2 2001
...This is a novelization of play by Agatha Christie. And like many novelizations of both plays and screenplays it reads too much like the author took the stage directions and just translated them into prose (Poirot exits stage left while Hastings enters stage right becomes "As Poirot left the room by the garden door, Hastings entered the room by the hall door.") I usually don't read novelizations for this very reason. It seems that most of these things never delve any deeper than the movie or play. In this case the novel takes place in one room, just a the play did, which is very limiting. On top of that, the mystery is not very mysterious...this plot is has been used before in a previous Christie novel.
I'd recommend a pass on this book unless you've read every other Poirot mystery and really hanker for one more.
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