cover image Black Coffee

Black Coffee

Charles Osborne, Agatha Christie. St. Martin's Press, $22.95 (221pp) ISBN 978-0-312-19241-9

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. (Sept.)