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Jenna’s Bookshelf: Black Coffee

Jenna Devine, Staff Writter

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Black Coffee 

Written by Agatha Christ

Adapted as a novel by Charles Osborne

Genre: Murder Mystery

Rating: 3.5/5

“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 designed 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 own lips’.”

– provided abstract

Set five years before the heat of World War II begins, Sir Claud Amory has created a formula for a new and deadly explosive that could give Great Britain the edge in the coming war. He calls upon Hercule Poirot to come to his estate, retrieve the formula, and deliver it directly to the Ministry as he fears someone in his own household is attempting to steal it. The same evening Poroit is scheduled to arrive, Sir Claud makes the discovery that the formula has been stolen from his locked safe. He gathers the household during after-dinner coffee and after stating that he knows everyone had ample opportunity to steal the formula, he gives the thief the opportunity to return it when the lights turn out. Only when the light returns Sir Claud is dead, poisoned by his black coffee. Poirot arrives minutes later and begins to unravel the secrets the Amory family hides.

I picked up Black Coffee with high expectations as I had previously read an Agatha Christie play adapted as a novel by Charles Osborne. I thoroughly appreciated the unexpected twists and turns of this fast paced story, as it was chalk full of characters who weren’t who they said they were. It wasn’t an obvious who-done-it as suspicion was running rampant throughout the household, and everyone had the opportunity and motive to steal the formula. The question that ran through my mind was why was Sir Claud murdered? If the thief had successfully stolen the formula, why kill Sir Claud after they took it? What exactly would his death accomplish? Everyone could have been guilty for perfectly plausible reasons, but the true culprit threw me for a loop. Overall, Black Coffee was a fast paced read that was a tad predictable, yet it caught me off guard in a way that only a classic murder mystery can do.

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Jenna’s Bookshelf: Black Coffee