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Black Coffee: A Mystery Play in Three Acts

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An intriguing story concerning a physicist named Sir Claud Amory who has come up with a formula for an atomic bomb. In the first act, Sir Claud is poisoned (in his coffee, naturally) and Hercule Poirot is called upon to solve the case. He does so after many wonderful twists and turns in true Christie tradition. Librarian's note #1: 'Black Coffee' was written in 1930; that's An intriguing story concerning a physicist named Sir Claud Amory who has come up with a formula for an atomic bomb. In the first act, Sir Claud is poisoned (in his coffee, naturally) and Hercule Poirot is called upon to solve the case. He does so after many wonderful twists and turns in true Christie tradition. Librarian's note #1: 'Black Coffee' was written in 1930; that's fifteen years before the use of two such bombs brought an end to WW2. Librarian's note #2: this is the first of several plays written by Christie, of which the best known is 'The Mousetrap'. Some of the plays, such as this one, have been novelized by other authors and can be found elsewhere on Goodreads.


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An intriguing story concerning a physicist named Sir Claud Amory who has come up with a formula for an atomic bomb. In the first act, Sir Claud is poisoned (in his coffee, naturally) and Hercule Poirot is called upon to solve the case. He does so after many wonderful twists and turns in true Christie tradition. Librarian's note #1: 'Black Coffee' was written in 1930; that's An intriguing story concerning a physicist named Sir Claud Amory who has come up with a formula for an atomic bomb. In the first act, Sir Claud is poisoned (in his coffee, naturally) and Hercule Poirot is called upon to solve the case. He does so after many wonderful twists and turns in true Christie tradition. Librarian's note #1: 'Black Coffee' was written in 1930; that's fifteen years before the use of two such bombs brought an end to WW2. Librarian's note #2: this is the first of several plays written by Christie, of which the best known is 'The Mousetrap'. Some of the plays, such as this one, have been novelized by other authors and can be found elsewhere on Goodreads.

30 review for Black Coffee: A Mystery Play in Three Acts

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gene

    Originally Black Coffee was a play by Agatha Christie. Later on it was rewritten as a novel by Charles Osborne. This is where the confusion started. Practically everybody who read the novel was of the opinion that it was mediocre. Not the fault of Charles Osborne as The Dame of Mystery was an act tough to follow. So I wanted the play. Everywhere I looked: Amazon, other online bookstores, brick-and-mortar bookstores, libraries, WorldCat, and anything else I could think of offered the novel despit Originally Black Coffee was a play by Agatha Christie. Later on it was rewritten as a novel by Charles Osborne. This is where the confusion started. Practically everybody who read the novel was of the opinion that it was mediocre. Not the fault of Charles Osborne as The Dame of Mystery was an act tough to follow. So I wanted the play. Everywhere I looked: Amazon, other online bookstores, brick-and-mortar bookstores, libraries, WorldCat, and anything else I could think of offered the novel despite me specifically asking for a play. Finally I bought it directly from the publisher (Samuel French, Inc.) thinking they would send me the novel as well and getting ready to send it back. To my surprise I received exactly what I wanted. Back to the plot. Sir Claud Amory was a brilliant scientist, but quite a despot when it came to his relatives. Considering he had lots of them and none bothered to do this pesky thing called work preferring to live off Sir Claud Amory, I cannot pretend I did not understand where his despotism came from. In any way, the guy developed an explosive with destruction power greater than that of an atomic bomb (I think we can overlook some scientific inaccuracies from The Dame of Mystery). Needless to say every single international spy was interested in the formula. One fateful day the inventor announced that somebody managed to steal it from his safe and that he invited a famous detective Hercule Poirot (accompanied by his faithful sidekick Capt. Hastings) to investigate. Poirot arrived a little late as the papers with the formula were restores to their place. However he was just in time to investigate the resulting murder. It is hard to judge this as a regular book. After all, it is a play meaning all the information is given entirely through the dialogs with bare-bone descriptions of people, places, rooms, etc. For the same reason it is pointless to speak about any characterization as well as the play is relatively short. What matters is that I lost some sleep trying to finish reading; all Poirot books have this influence on me (The Big Four is the only exception; this one is a great insomnia cure). All the expected from the series twists, red herrings, brilliant Poirot's deduction skills were present. I can only complain that one of the twist came straight from another Poirot novel (and I am not spoiling it by revealing the title!) Also it was possible to reduce the number of suspects to only two very early in the story if you force you "gray cells" to work a little. The final rating is 3.5 stars rounded up because I am a big fan of the series and will round up any rating (almost; see above for exception) of a book belonging to it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot uses his little grey cells to solve another mystery in this highly entertaining play from 1930. It's fast paced & a lot of fun, although the build up to the denouement is perhaps better than the solution itself. Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot uses his little grey cells to solve another mystery in this highly entertaining play from 1930. It's fast paced & a lot of fun, although the build up to the denouement is perhaps better than the solution itself.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jack Heath

    4 Stars. I enjoyed the play. Surprisingly. The version I read was the Samuel French edition. It comes with staging directions but the extras don't get in the way of one's reading pleasure. French, 1821-1898, was an American publisher in New York and London specializing in plays and playwrights; his company continues today. "Black Coffee" is pleasantly short, at 103 pages, and captures the essence of what audiences had come to expect by 1930 of a Christie murder mystery with Hercule Poirot. For C 4 Stars. I enjoyed the play. Surprisingly. The version I read was the Samuel French edition. It comes with staging directions but the extras don't get in the way of one's reading pleasure. French, 1821-1898, was an American publisher in New York and London specializing in plays and playwrights; his company continues today. "Black Coffee" is pleasantly short, at 103 pages, and captures the essence of what audiences had come to expect by 1930 of a Christie murder mystery with Hercule Poirot. For Christie: all the action takes place in the library of an upper middle-class home in rural England. With only off-stage reference to the victim's office, the dining room, and the garden. Snobbery and disdain for foreigners as usual play a part, as do money problems, misdirection, and a dash of romance. For Poirot: his ego is front row centre, and his embellished manners, his secretiveness, and his playing cat and mouse with Hastings and Japp are prominent. Sir Claud (with no 'e') Amory, a wealthy scientist, claims to have discovered the formula for an atom bomb! Worth stealing and selling to the highest bidder even in 1930. There's the essence of the story. It's worth a look. (December 2021)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alaina

    Well, well.. I came back to the Hercule Series. Not sure why I ever walked away from it but now I'm determined to see this to the end. Black Coffee was okay. I think it has to deal with how much time has passed from the last book that I read until this one. I also someone ended up skipping book #7 which is really odd. So, yeah.. lot's of weirdness going on with my life. Just like all the Hercule Poirot books, the mystery is always addicting. Plus the bantering is always on point. Since I'm horribl Well, well.. I came back to the Hercule Series. Not sure why I ever walked away from it but now I'm determined to see this to the end. Black Coffee was okay. I think it has to deal with how much time has passed from the last book that I read until this one. I also someone ended up skipping book #7 which is really odd. So, yeah.. lot's of weirdness going on with my life. Just like all the Hercule Poirot books, the mystery is always addicting. Plus the bantering is always on point. Since I'm horrible at being a detective, I was horrible at guessing who the killer was. Now I know I wont quit my day job. In the end, I still feel like I need to finish this series. Hoping for the best!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tras

    Note: I read Charles Osborne's novelisation of this play. Note: I read Charles Osborne's novelisation of this play.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Le Chat Noir

    A scientist summons Poirot to help him deliver a sensitive document that would weaponize the atomic bomb in a way never seen before. Once Poirot arrives the delivery errand has turned into a murder. The problem is several people seem not to be who they are and there is more than one motive for murder. With Hastings in tow and the little grey cells, Poirot must figure out who killed the scientist and why? An enjoyable read, Hastings was thankfully not annoying here although, I wonder what his wife A scientist summons Poirot to help him deliver a sensitive document that would weaponize the atomic bomb in a way never seen before. Once Poirot arrives the delivery errand has turned into a murder. The problem is several people seem not to be who they are and there is more than one motive for murder. With Hastings in tow and the little grey cells, Poirot must figure out who killed the scientist and why? An enjoyable read, Hastings was thankfully not annoying here although, I wonder what his wife would think about how he behaved with a certain young lady in this one. The mysterious Italians were an interesting touch, one was easy to identify but the other was a bit of a surprise to me. The culprit was not who I had pegged as a main suspect so that was nice, as is usually the case, money is the motive. 3.5 (rounded down)/5 – A solid, enjoyable read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    catherine ♡

    This is a review of the novelization: I actually really enjoyed this one! It started out kind of slow but the premise and story got really interesting when Poirot entered. The only part that kind of meh part was towards the end — I was pleasantly surprised when someone actually managed to (view spoiler)[outsmart Poirot. But it all turned out to be a set-up and Poirot knowing everything (hide spoiler)] just felt predictable again. This is a review of the novelization: I actually really enjoyed this one! It started out kind of slow but the premise and story got really interesting when Poirot entered. The only part that kind of meh part was towards the end — I was pleasantly surprised when someone actually managed to (view spoiler)[outsmart Poirot. But it all turned out to be a set-up and Poirot knowing everything (hide spoiler)] just felt predictable again.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Mild Disclaimer: I read the novelization instead, and have no intention of reading the drama, but it honestly bugs me too much when the series listing for the Poirot novels has this version rather than the one I read (of the same book, essentially) so that it looks as though I skipped this one. So there. Oh, what fun. Maybe it's because I went into this fully expecting a stinker—I mean, it's a novelization of a drama, come on!—but I thought this was just a delightful little Poirot story. I li Mild Disclaimer: I read the novelization instead, and have no intention of reading the drama, but it honestly bugs me too much when the series listing for the Poirot novels has this version rather than the one I read (of the same book, essentially) so that it looks as though I skipped this one. So there. Oh, what fun. Maybe it's because I went into this fully expecting a stinker—I mean, it's a novelization of a drama, come on!—but I thought this was just a delightful little Poirot story. I liked it as much as, if not more than, the previous installment of the collection, The Mystery of the Blue Train. Clearly, I am waiting with bated breath to make it up to Murder on the Orient Express, and I don't expect anything nearly as good as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (which is sensational, by the way), but these last two have been fun and easy reads. Surely (Shirley :: Don't call me Shirley!), the very definition of a cozy mystery.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lorna

    I thought it was good! I read the novelised version.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lexy

    I thought that this book was okay

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amelia Burton

    I started this book forever ago and was just instantly bored. I absolutely love Agatha Christie but my disappointment was through the roof with this one☠️

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sierra

    Not the best one I've read but still enjoyable! Not the best one I've read but still enjoyable!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Avid Reader and Geek Girl

    2.5 stars Since you pretty much knew the murderer for most of the book I thought the book was kind of pointless. The narrator was good. I prefer Agatha Christie's books, this was actually the novelization of a play. 2.5 stars Since you pretty much knew the murderer for most of the book I thought the book was kind of pointless. The narrator was good. I prefer Agatha Christie's books, this was actually the novelization of a play.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sasan

    Probably one of the shorter selection of my reviews. I have my own blog now, so please do give it a visit if you're interested in my other reviews :) ────────────────── I read the novelization of the play, and although I do think it's best to "watch" plays instead of read them, I opted for what's available for me instead. I do plan to watch a lot of adaptations of Poirot's cases at some point, but not before I finish the novel series first. The mystery in itself follows the usual Poirot motif, wit Probably one of the shorter selection of my reviews. I have my own blog now, so please do give it a visit if you're interested in my other reviews :) ────────────────── I read the novelization of the play, and although I do think it's best to "watch" plays instead of read them, I opted for what's available for me instead. I do plan to watch a lot of adaptations of Poirot's cases at some point, but not before I finish the novel series first. The mystery in itself follows the usual Poirot motif, with the usage of red herrings to make me question every single one of the characters before the very end where he wows me with his deduction and the usage of the grey cells. Now this one is a little bit different on the narrative style, since despite having Hastings around, he's not the one narrating the entirety of the scenes, instead it moves through the characters with scenes that don't even involve Poirot before I come back to the deduction. I didn't dislike that as it was one of the main reasons of why I liked reading through The Mystery of the Blue Train earlier this month. Being around the characters in a bigger view than simple narration makes it easier to get a feel of everyone before the solving begins which I can safely say, is never a disappointing affair with Hercule Poirot as this mystery as well was an interesting one. I also managed to narrow down my possible suspects to two people, where I, at the last minute, ended up choosing the wrong one. So once again, you win Agatha Christie, you win. But I'm getting better at this overall, and I can't wait to see what the tally ends up like at the end as I have a very proud one victory over her in the 8 works I read of hers so far. Yeah... Moving on! The main thing that I felt was different here is the way or rather, feel of writing. Agatha Christie's writing of Hercule Poirot has always been amusing to me, I literally have a smile on my face with the occasional chuckle whenever I read a novel by her that I felt was missing here. There is only one line later on when Hastings is being Hastings, but overall, I felt that it's just different and while not the bad different, it wasn't the good different either for me. So I'm a bit conflicted. Anyway, I do think it's interesting in the end, but I'm more excited to get back to her usual style a little bit more. I do hope to get to read one more in May, if not then I'm reading the usual two a month in June.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Deanna

    The format of Black Coffee by Agatha Christie available at my library is a play featuring the brilliant deductive abilities of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Poirot and his friend Hastings are summoned to the home of Sir Claud Amory to determine the identity of the thief responsible for stealing the formula for a new explosive from the scientist's safe. Upon arrival Poirot discovers that not only is the formula still missing but Sir Claud has been poisoned. While a play is not my preferred re The format of Black Coffee by Agatha Christie available at my library is a play featuring the brilliant deductive abilities of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Poirot and his friend Hastings are summoned to the home of Sir Claud Amory to determine the identity of the thief responsible for stealing the formula for a new explosive from the scientist's safe. Upon arrival Poirot discovers that not only is the formula still missing but Sir Claud has been poisoned. While a play is not my preferred reading style, I found the mystery to be quite entertaining. 4 stars

  16. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This Agatha Christie book had me thinking of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson but are leading men this time are Hercule Poirot and Cap. Hasting with Inspector Japp in place of Inspector Lestrade. A family comes under suspicion of murder when the head of the house dies in a lock room with his family and guest. This was an easy read with lots of twists and turns if you like a good old fashioned mystery I would recommend any book by Agatha Christie

  17. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

    I accidentally got the stage version of the story from the library--and it didn't occur to me that this wasn't normal or that there would be a true novel version. So now I feel that I've cheated myself of the proper experience and took a shortcut through the story. (This stage version dumbed down the story, I believe.) Needless to say, I will find my way to the true novel version. I accidentally got the stage version of the story from the library--and it didn't occur to me that this wasn't normal or that there would be a true novel version. So now I feel that I've cheated myself of the proper experience and took a shortcut through the story. (This stage version dumbed down the story, I believe.) Needless to say, I will find my way to the true novel version.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    My first meeting with Mr Poirot. Loved it! Was not the butler with the candlestick in the kitchen! (Cluedo)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Taju Noor

    Hercule Poirot strikes again. I will never forget it when he quoted "Papa Poirot" Hercule Poirot strikes again. I will never forget it when he quoted "Papa Poirot"

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kara Gemian

    A quick and lovely Poirot tale.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vijaya Chikermane

    Classic Christie mystery. I rhyme my reviews now:)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phoebes

    The plot and the mistery intrigue weren't particularly original or convoluted, but I still liked this play a lot! In fact I liked the story, as well as the mystery. I loved Poirot, as brilliant and funny as ever. And I really liked the fact that it was a script, the author's detailed indications, the way the clues are shown by the gestures of the characters, too. I'm really happy and satisfied that I was finally able to read this book! La trama e l’intrigo giallo non erano particolarmente original The plot and the mistery intrigue weren't particularly original or convoluted, but I still liked this play a lot! In fact I liked the story, as well as the mystery. I loved Poirot, as brilliant and funny as ever. And I really liked the fact that it was a script, the author's detailed indications, the way the clues are shown by the gestures of the characters, too. I'm really happy and satisfied that I was finally able to read this book! La trama e l’intrigo giallo non erano particolarmente originali né arzigogolati, ma nonostante questo quest’opera teatrale mi è piaciuta un sacco! Infatti la storia mi è piaciuta, così come il mistero. Mi è piaciuto tanto Poirot, geniale e divertente come sempre. E mi è piaciuto proprio il fatto che fosse un testo teatrale, le indicazioni così dettagliate dell’autrice, il modo in cui gli indizi sono mostrati anche dai gesti dei personaggi. Sono proprio contenta e soddisfatta di aver finalmente potuto leggere questo libro! http://www.naufragio.it/iltempodilegg...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Julie Miller

    One item on my bucket list is to read all of Agatha Christie's works, so when I found out about this script (which I had never heard of, so I was delighted when a friend suggested it to me!), I was excited to read it. It's a beautifully written British drawing-room mystery. And Hercule Poirot is in fine form when he's called to Sir Claud Amory's estate to solve a murder... before it happens. Interesting premise. Of course, Sir Claud does end up being murdered (someone poisons his coffee, hence th One item on my bucket list is to read all of Agatha Christie's works, so when I found out about this script (which I had never heard of, so I was delighted when a friend suggested it to me!), I was excited to read it. It's a beautifully written British drawing-room mystery. And Hercule Poirot is in fine form when he's called to Sir Claud Amory's estate to solve a murder... before it happens. Interesting premise. Of course, Sir Claud does end up being murdered (someone poisons his coffee, hence the title). But storywise, I felt it was slow-moving. Clever banter alone can't make up for a lack of action onstage. I didn't figure out who the killer was, sadly, I'm afraid, because plotwise, it was kind of meh for me--and I had a hard time paying close attention to pick up all the clues. For a true Agatha Christie fan, it's a must-read. But I enjoyed And Then There Were None and The Mousetrap a lot more.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Midori

    I have read the novelized version of the play as composed by C. Osborne. The plot has clearly elements from other AC’s detective fiction. AC’s great fans will not fail to notice it straight from the beginning making the reading process a strange deja vu. I cannot classify Black Coffee among AC’s memorable works; it is acceptable and it will keep you good company during a cold winter weekend. As a footnote, I will add that though C. Osborne tries consciously to recreate AC’s style and wording, Da I have read the novelized version of the play as composed by C. Osborne. The plot has clearly elements from other AC’s detective fiction. AC’s great fans will not fail to notice it straight from the beginning making the reading process a strange deja vu. I cannot classify Black Coffee among AC’s memorable works; it is acceptable and it will keep you good company during a cold winter weekend. As a footnote, I will add that though C. Osborne tries consciously to recreate AC’s style and wording, Dame Agatha is unique and inimitable.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Richardson

    DNF'd on page 63. I feel like I can't give this one a rating since I didn't get in far enough into the story but this play just did not hold my interest. It was just a random play that my library had a copy of and, if I weren't so busy, I could've probably finished it in one sitting. I also read Murder on the Orient Express and few other Agatha Christie works in the past year and I was interested in getting deeper into her catalogue but this one didn't do it for me. I would've watched the play if DNF'd on page 63. I feel like I can't give this one a rating since I didn't get in far enough into the story but this play just did not hold my interest. It was just a random play that my library had a copy of and, if I weren't so busy, I could've probably finished it in one sitting. I also read Murder on the Orient Express and few other Agatha Christie works in the past year and I was interested in getting deeper into her catalogue but this one didn't do it for me. I would've watched the play if they had a recording on YouTube but they don't so...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nikhil Patel

    As usual what I think is that Christie's mysteries with Poirot don't seem to stand the test of time. They are not good mysteries by standard of today. But, what I like about Christie's stories, as always, the atmosphere it creates and gets you in the story even if it's not that interesting. As usual what I think is that Christie's mysteries with Poirot don't seem to stand the test of time. They are not good mysteries by standard of today. But, what I like about Christie's stories, as always, the atmosphere it creates and gets you in the story even if it's not that interesting.

  27. 4 out of 5

    J.J.

    Coffee and a mystery; what could be better!

  28. 4 out of 5

    ANGSHUMAN

    Brilliantly written. Like every other Christie story,the twist in the end was stunning.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Belinda

    3.5 stars. Originally a play written by Christie, years after her death Charles Osborne had the idea to adapt it into a novel to give these world more of Poirot. It was a great idea. Also chronologically this does seem to be the right spot for it in the series. I liked this. It is quite short, but it works. It's a classic mystery. The one locked room all of the suspects are in, and a murder occurring wit anyone witnessing it in spite of that. You can tell from how it's written that the setting w 3.5 stars. Originally a play written by Christie, years after her death Charles Osborne had the idea to adapt it into a novel to give these world more of Poirot. It was a great idea. Also chronologically this does seem to be the right spot for it in the series. I liked this. It is quite short, but it works. It's a classic mystery. The one locked room all of the suspects are in, and a murder occurring wit anyone witnessing it in spite of that. You can tell from how it's written that the setting was made specifically for a play. A majority of it takes place in the library where the murder occurs, which of course means that was the main stage for the play. There is a great significance to where certain characters are situated in the story. Like where they were standing or sitting. It's certainly not the most complicated of Christie's mysteries, but it's still fun. There's plenty of drama and emotions. You can eliminate most of the suspects, but it's still a bit hard to deduce who the killer is. Overall this was a quick, easy read. I'm sure this was much more exciting as a play, especially for the scene where everything goes dark for a minute and you only hear the sounds. It must have been thrilling to see that in a theater. Plus it has a simple storyline that refreshed my mind and makes me eager to read the next one.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I just didn't care for this that much as compared to other Agatha Christie Novels. Part of it was that I don't really like ready play scripts. Reading a play doesn't immerse me in the story as well as a novel does. I feel like I'm just reading a list of sentences. The other part of why I didn't like this all that much is the way the reveal was set up. We have Poirot doing his detective work as usual, being vague about who he suspects as usual, and then in the last 5 pages or so the murderer is r I just didn't care for this that much as compared to other Agatha Christie Novels. Part of it was that I don't really like ready play scripts. Reading a play doesn't immerse me in the story as well as a novel does. I feel like I'm just reading a list of sentences. The other part of why I didn't like this all that much is the way the reveal was set up. We have Poirot doing his detective work as usual, being vague about who he suspects as usual, and then in the last 5 pages or so the murderer is revealed. A murderer who is only mentioned about a half dozen times by other characters and is only in about 4 scenes. There's no character exploration at all for this guy. Every other character has some backstory and has more scenes. All in all, I just don't know about this one. I like it because it's Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot. I'm glad I read it; I just think not preferring plays threw me off. I don't think I would recommend it but at the same time I wouldn't steer other people away from it.

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