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Black Coffee (Hercule Poirot Mysteries) Hardcover – August 15, 1998

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Product Details

  • Series: Hercule Poirot Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur; 1st edition (August 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 2744121436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312192419
  • ASIN: 031219241X
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,957,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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

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.

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Customer Reviews

A nice read for Christie fans!
Third, this was the only Hercule Poirot novel with Captain Hastings in it where Hastings does not narrate the story, so why did the author even bother with Hastings?
Mark E. Summers
The story moves fairly well, although there is a little too much decription of the surroundings and people(I never thought that I'd say that.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Mary T. Bowers on January 10, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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 I remember her.
I won't read The Unexpected Guest, just as I didn't continue to read Robert Goldsborough's game imitation of the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout. Rex's voice, too, is gone forever.
Whether or not you'll enjoy this book depends on what you read a book for. If you find yourself reading phrases over a second time, savoring the way the author used precisely the right words to speak right to you, you won't like this book. If you like a neat little puzzle, especially in the lightweight style of the drawing-room mysteries of the '30s and '40s, Black Coffee will satisfy you, though like others, I did wonder why the author chose to focus in on the murderer's hand at that crucial moment. Mrs. Christie would be appalled.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Neal J. Pollock VINE VOICE on November 12, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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 as easily have been bound and published. But, Osborne has apparently done little, if anything, to detract from the plays themselves. So, IMHO, he has done a service both to Christie and to the mystery reading public by publishing these works. As for the content, this particular work is rather straight-forward, lacking some of Christie's usual twists and turns, cleverness, etc. It is the only one of the 3 plays that includes one of her 3 usual "detectives" (Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Tommy & Tuppence). This play is a Poirot adventure, but it's not anywhere near one of the best. It is, however, a Christie. If you've read all the others, it's one more to read. So, do your best to enjoy what may be your final opportunity.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Osborne didn't even come close to acheiving Christie's style. The dialouge was stilted, and the thought and sentence patterns felt so...wrong. Accordingly, Christie's characters do not ring true here. I have read other works where a living writer has tried to imitate another writer's style, and most of them succeeded on a much higher level than this. I admit, though, that I probably would have enjoyed the book more if I could have stopped myself from subconsciously comparing it to Christie's masterpieces.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By bearieq on June 3, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ok, so first of all, this is not a novel. As soon as you open the book, you will notice that the large font and baseline stretch are intended to hide the fact that this story is really only about 100 pages long. One hundred pages is too long for a good short story and too short for a good novel-length mystery, and indeed, this book is neither.


Worst thing first: On page 59 the author explicitly shows the guilty party committing the act. Ok, there must be a trick here, or a twist, or a ruse on the part of the character or author, right? Wrong: The author really does, on page 59, simply show the guilty party committing the act. I have not read the original play on which this story is based, so I do not know which of the two authors was out of his or her mind: Christie, when she wrote the play, or Osborne, when he adapted it. Even if it was Christie, Osborne was almost as guilty in propagating that travesty. And the Christie estate was guilty not only for allowing the travesty to be printed, but for recommending it as something that "Agatha would be proud to have written...." Have the Christie heirs actually *read* any of their ancestor's novels? Christie would be horrified!

Next worst thing: Hastings and Japp. They are simply wrong. Hastings, in several places, acts disturbingly contrary to the "real" Hastings that we know and love. Fortunately, both Hastings and Japp are little more than cardboard characters who barely make an appearance in the story, so their wrongness does not impinge upon the reader too often. (Of course, in 100 pages, how can *any* character impinge upon the reader enough to make an impression?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 28, 2000
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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