Black Coffee by Charles Osborne



Poirot is sipping his second cup of hot chocolate when Georges, his manservant, tells him of a certain telephone call that he received the previous night. The caller asked not to reveal his name when Poirot calls back and to specifically ask for Sir Claud Amory. Before Poirot could call, Sir Claud Amory calls again. He is a scientist and he’s building a powerful weapon. He says that someone is trying to steal the formula and asks Poirot to come over for the weekend, catch the culprit or at least safely deposit the formula in the hands of the government. Hastings is now a resident of Argentina and he lives there with his wife. He’s in London on some business and Poirot asks him to join. 


It’s Friday night and at the dinner table, there’s Barbara (Amory’s niece), Caroline (sister), Richard (son), Lucia(daughter-in-law, Italian), Dr.Carelli (Italian, Lucia’s friend), Edward Raynor (Amory’s secretary) and Sir Claud Amory. Lucia walks into the library saying that she’s feeling unwell. The two women – Caroline and Barbara, follow her to the library and search for a tonic in Edna’s (Barbara’s elder sister) Medicine Box. Apart from bandages and gauzes, the medicine box also contains vials of poisons, Dr.Carelli enters the library, explains the effects of these poisons and hands over a tube of Hyoscine Hydrobromide to Lucia. 


Raynor sees Lucia pop a couple of pills in her hand before replacing the tube in the medicine box. Sir Claud Amory returns to the library and says that there’s a thief amongst their midst and until the thief returns the stolen formula, nobody is allowed to walk out of the library. All the doors and windows are sealed. He gives an option to the thief – return the formula and there will be no charges against him/her. The light goes off for a minute – as arranged by Sir Claud Amory and his butler so that the thief’s identity remains hidden. When the lights are back, Poirot is at the door and Sir Claud Amory is found dead.


My Review

Black coffee is a novelization of Agatha Christie’s play “Black Coffee” by Charles Osborne. By 1929, Christie had completed the story but no publishers were willing to accept it. Her friend who had contacts at the theatre helped her and the story was accepted for production in 1930 at the Embassy Theatre, London.

Black Coffee is unlike the other Poirot mysteries. Not much of a thrill or curiosity to identify the perpetrator. The plot, nevertheless, was good. But the story, not so amazing. It was a bit dull and lacked the usual Poirot’s touch. And it did look like Poirot was deliberately trying to belittle Hastings.

The ending was just okay. Nothing great. There was something more to Sir Claud’s murder mystery than the theft of the formula – I liked this – two reasons to kill a man. Having said that, there are two individuals, each having their own sinister plan. If you are planning to start reading Poirot series, then do not start with this book or you will be disappointed.


My Rating


Language/Writing: 4/5

Plot/Story: 3/5

Character Development: 3/5

Ending: 3/5


Overall rating: 3/5


Book Details


Title: Black Coffee (Hercule Poirot Mystery #7)

Author: Charles Osborne (novelization)

Published on: July 1st, 1999

Genre: Crime and Mystery

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