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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)
First Sentence
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 A commendable effort - but not for purists Jan. 5 2002
By Karl
Format:Hardcover
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Read this book! Aug. 28 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I found this book very intriguing! I was first hooked on Agatha Christie books last year when we read And Then There Were None in my language arts class. The latter still remains my favorite Agatha Christie mystery, but I found Black Coffee up there with the best (along with Murder on the Orient Express and Cat Among the Pigeons). The only fault that I have discovered in mostly all of Christie's novels is the fact that most of them have a rather slow beginning (except, for the most part, And Then There Were None, although this too was a bit slow). Yet Black Coffee held my interest from the very start. I did not find the murderer very obvious, since I kept changing my opinion of who the murderer was. Although Charles Osborne did a very wonderful job of writing the novel and keeping as close to the script of the play, it was not a true work of Agatha Christie. Therefore, I could not award this book a five. (Yet I thoroughly enjoyed the overuse of dialogue.) I still remain a major fan of Hercule Poirot mysteries, and Black Coffee was one of the best. Hercule is brilliant, and it certainly showed in this particular novel.
p.s. - After blabbing on and on about the wonderful Agatha Christie mysteries to my twelve-year-old cousin (whom I'm very close in relationship to), I've managed to get her hooked on the Agatha Christie novels. Hurray for me! Now I have a close friend to converse over with these wonderful books! We also exchange our Agatha Christie books with each other now, and recommend ones that we've borrowed from the library or another friend. I strongly recommended Black Coffee to her. She, too, has not read any Miss Marple mysteries yet, and is thoroughly interested in Hercule Poirot's cases. Ms. Christie has quite a brilliant mind, and we praise her for that.
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this book! Aug. 28 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I found this book very intriguing! I was first hooked on Agatha Christie books last year when we read And Then There Were None in my language arts class. The latter still remains my favorite Agatha Christie mystery, but I found Black Coffee up there with the best (along with Murder on the Orient Express and Cat Among the Pigeons). The only fault that I have discovered in mostly all of Christie's novels is the fact that most of them have a rather slow beginning (except, for the most part, And Then There Were None, although this too was a bit slow). Yet Black Coffee held my interest from the very start. I did not find the murderer very obvious, since I kept changing my opinion of who the murderer was. Although Charles Osborne did a very wonderful job of writing the novel and keeping as close to the script of the play, it was not a true work of Agatha Christie. Therefore, I could not award this book a five. (Yet I thoroughly enjoyed the overuse of dialogue.) I still remain a major fan of Hercule Poirot mysteries, and Black Coffee was one of the best. Hercule is brilliant, and it certainly showed in this particular novel.
p.s. - After blabbing on and on about the wonderful Agatha Christie mysteries to my twelve-year-old cousin (whom I'm very close in relationship to), I've managed to get her hooked on the Agatha Christie novels. Hurray for me! Now I have a close friend to converse over with these wonderful books! We also exchange our Agatha Christie books with each other now, and recommend ones that we've borrowed from the library or another friend. I strongly recommended Black Coffee to her. She, too, has not read any Miss Marple mysteries yet, and is thoroughly interested in Hercule Poirot's cases. Ms. Christie has quite a brilliant mind, and we praise her for that.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Adaptation of an Agatha Christie play
Charles Osborne writes the novel "Black Coffee" as an adaptation of Agatha Christie's original play. Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2004 by Karen Potts
2.0 out of 5 stars Review of "Black Coffee" by : Agatha Christie
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. Read more
Published on March 13 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Completely Shocked!
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. Read more
Published on Aug. 10 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Agatha Christie gone Charles Osborne...not bad.
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. Read more
Published on July 19 2001 by "magnet83n"
2.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Decaf!
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"... Read more
Published on May 17 2001 by CMBohn
2.0 out of 5 stars Reads too much like a play
...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... Read more
Published on April 2 2001 by Old Fisherman
4.0 out of 5 stars Yeah it was alright
This book wasn't bad at all but it has a lot of dialogue and is set in one room. The plot is very interesting and the murderer is very clever but not as clever as poirot. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars It deserves 3 stars
For those diehard Christie fans who read her novels for their interesting plots and well written prose, this one will be somewhat of a disappointment. Read more
Published on Sept. 15 2000 by tokyowalker
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It!
Poirot is back in a play that has been rewritten into a mystery novel. As in past mysteries, Poirot finds plenty of support. Read more
Published on July 19 2000 by Brenda
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