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Black Coffee (novel)

Black Coffee is a novelisation by the Australian-born writer and opera expert Charles Osborne of the 1930 play of the same name by crime fiction author Agatha Christie

The novelisation was first published in the United Kingdom by HarperCollins on 2 November 1998 and in the United States by St Martin's Press on 31 December 1998 It features Christie's famous literary creation Hercule Poirot, a London-based Belgian private detective

Until the 1998 publication of the novel, the play on which it was based was one of the least known pieces in the Christie canon The publication proved successful enough to warrant adaptations by Osborne of two other Agatha Christie plays, namely The Unexpected Guest in 1999 and Spider's Web in 2000


  • 1 Characters
  • 2 Plot
  • 3 Summary
  • 4 Film versions
  • 5 External links


  • Hercule Poirot – The protagonist A detective known for his "little grey cells"
  • Captain Arthur Hastings – A friend and assistant of Poirot
  • Chief Inspector James Japp – A Scotland Yard detective and another assistant of Poirot
  • Sir Claud Amory – A reclusive, rich scientist He dies from hyoscine poisoning via his black coffee
  • Richard Amory – Sir Claud's only son He had to quit the army and now lives with his father He has tried several businesses and has failed to earn any real money
  • Lucia Amory – Richard's wife Lucia is an Italian She and Richard met a year ago, fell in love and got married Her mother died before she met Richard and very little is known about her life
  • Caroline Amory – Sir Claud's spinster sister Caroline is a prudish woman who symbolizes Victorian ideals She may be under her brother's thumb, but is practically the matriarch of the household
  • Barbara Amory – Sir Claud's and Caroline's niece Barbara is polar opposite of her aunt and seldom thinks twice before saying something
  • Edward Raynor – Sir Claud's secretary
  • Dr Carelli – An acquaintance of Lucia, presumably an old Italian friend Lucia and Carelli met after a long time some days ago, and now he is a guest at the Amory residence His background is as vague as that of Lucia's


Hercule Poirot and his friend Hastings are called upon to visit the home of the famous physicist Sir Claud Amory, who has devised the formula for a new type of explosive; but they learn that he has been poisoned in his black coffee, hence the title the night of their arrival Poirot is now confronted with the challenge of figuring out which of the array of other people gathered at the Amory residence is the murderer He questions every single person that was present at the night of the murder He then concludes his investigation with the help of an old friend from Scotland Yard


Sir Claud Amory calls Poirot and informs that someone in his own household is attempting to steal a formula of a new explosive being developed by him so he calls Poirot right away Meanwhile, it is revealed that the formula has been stolen and the Amory household is unaware of the development In the household, Lucia excuses herself from the dinner claiming to be feeling a bit ill Caroline follows Lucia, but it is evident that the latter just wants to be left alone Richard arrives as the women are talking, Caroline leaves the room Richard and Lucia had a love marriage, but now he suspects her infidelity as he has seen her communicating secretly with Carelli Lucia denies the allegation, but provides no further explanation

Some time later, Caroline rejoins the duo along with Barbara As the ladies start talking, the conversation takes turn to the topic of a female relative of the Amory's, a doctor who resides in India Barbara retrieves the doctor's bag which was kept on top of a cupboard The women observe the chemicals found in the box when Dr Carelli enters the room He sees the bag and starts explaining what the chemicals in the bag do He concentrates particularly on hyoscine hydrobromide, which could put a man in "a dreamless sleep" Later, Lucia secretly empties almost the whole vial of hyoscine, which is seen by Edward Raynor, the secretary of Sir Claud Edward doesn't let her know the fact

Some time later, Edward takes a cup of coffee for Sir Claud, but is stopped by Lucia, who tells him that he has the wrong cup He takes other cup and goes to his masters room After some time, Sir Claud joins the room as well Moments later, Lucia proceeds to exit the room, but is unable to open the door At this point, Sir Claud announces that the door is locked from outside He explains what has happened and plainly tells them that one of them is a thief He offers a deal: after one minute, the lights will go off Whoever stole the envelope containing the papers should put it on the table, following which no questions will be asked But once the lights turn on, if the papers are not there, the matter will be out of their hands

As the lights go off, a sound of something striking against metal is heard, followed by Lucia's frantic requests to release them The noise of some fabric tearing is also heard After the lights return, everyone is pleasantly surprised to see the envelope on the table Just then, Poirot enters the scene Richard greets Poirot and tells him that the matter is resolved However, Sir Claud is found to be dead in his chair and the envelope is found to be empty Poirot starts investigating after Lucia implores him to do so Richard gets angry at her, reminding her that his father commented that "the coffee tastes bitter" Realizing that this could implicate either or both of them, Lucia tries to dissuade Poirot, but in vain

Later, when Poirot and Hastings are hiding in the room, Lucia enters and substitutes a cup for another Poirot surmises that Sir Claud was poisoned via his coffee with hyoscine, which is confirmed by the family doctor Kenneth Graham As Poirot starts interrogating the family members, he senses that they are intent on hiding something Also, he finds letters written to Sir Claud telling him to keep distance from the child of Selma Goetz Poirot learns that Sir Claud learnt of the theft by accident He establishes that Sir Claud was already poisoned when he had everybody locked in the room

A key is found beneath Edward Raynor's chair, which is found to be the copy of the key of Sir Claud's safe Poirot later calls Lucia again for questioning Here, Poirot exposes her to be the daughter of Selma Goetz, an international spy who died some years earlier Lucia confesses that Carelli was blackmailing her and wanted her to steal the documents, but denies the theft or murder The key was made by Carelli so that he could open the safe and steal the documents Lucia claims that she stole hyoscine for herself: she intended to commit suicide before Richard found out her secret

Poirot now reveals that he knows about the cup she has hidden In a fit of hysteria, she admits to murdering Sir Claud Richard, believing that Lucia committed the murder, claims that she is taking his blame on her Poirot reveals to him that neither of them is guilty Later, Poirot calls Hastings in the room and explains what happened: When the lights went off, Lucia threw the duplicate key in such a way that anybody would think that the thief threw the key towards him He points to the sound of tearing of dress, since none of the members dress was found to be torn

Poirot tells that it was not a cloth that was torn, but paper He reveals to Hastings that in a vase by the fireplace, somebody had hid the now torn scraps of the formula Putting the scraps back in the vase, he and Hastings pretend that they have not guessed the truth Now only Raynor is home, while Poirot sends Hastings and Japp on some errands Poirot complains that he feels famished due to heat Raynor brings two glasses of whiskey, one for himself, one for Poirot Poirot starts explaining the case to him He suddenly stops as he thinks somebody is overhearing the conversation

Poirot goes and opens the door, but finds no one Poirot now points out that the box containing the chemicals was empty, while the cupboard on which it sat was caked with dust It meant that someone had handled the box before Barbara Now, he accuses Raynor of murder He stole the formula and had decided to kill his master on a later day, but he had to hasten his plans when the theft was found Poirot suddenly realizes that his whiskey tastes bitter Raynor mockingly accepts the accusations, but Poirot has difficulty talking or listening to him Raynor tells him that his whiskey has been poisoned as well

Before he can show the hiding place of the formula, Poirot passes out Realizing that Poirot is dead, Raynor quietly retrieves the formula and puts it back in the envelope As he turns to escape, he is apprehended by Hastings and Japp Poirot surprises him by getting up, revealing that when he went to see who the "intruder" was, he simply exchanged his poisoned cup for another one with help of Hastings, who was hidden there After Raynor is arrested for his crime, Poirot leaves the place, but not before re-uniting Richard and Lucia

Film versionsedit

The play on which Osborne's novelisation is based was filmed in England as Black Coffee in 1931, less than a year after its premiere staging in London It was released on 19 August 1931 by Twickenham Film Studios and has a running time of just under 80 minutes Julius S Hagan produced it and Austin Trevor played the role of Poirot Trevor had also appeared as Poirot in the 1931 film Alibi, which was made by the same studio a few months before Black Coffee Alibi was the first screen version of Christie's famous story The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Black Coffee play was filmed for a second time, this time in France, by Les Établissements Jacques Haïk It was released as Le Coffret de laque on 15 July 1932, and internationally as The Lacquered Box

External linksedit

  • Black Coffee 1931 on IMDb
  • Le Coffret de Laque 1932 on IMDb
Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot Characters Books Film adaptations Plays Televisionadaptations Video games See also
  • Hercule Poirot
  • Arthur Hastings
  • James Harold Japp
  • Ariadne Oliver
  • Colonel Race
Novels Short storycollections
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles 1920
  • The Murder on the Links 1923
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 1926
  • The Big Four 1927
  • The Mystery of the Blue Train 1928
  • Peril at End House 1932
  • Lord Edgware Dies 1933
  • Murder on the Orient Express 1934
  • Three Act Tragedy 1934
  • Death in the Clouds 1935
  • The ABC Murders 1936
  • Murder in Mesopotamia 1936
  • Cards on the Table 1936
  • Dumb Witness 1937
  • Death on the Nile 1937
  • Appointment with Death 1938
  • Hercule Poirot's Christmas 1938
  • Sad Cypress 1940
  • One, Two, Buckle My Shoe 1940
  • Evil Under the Sun 1941
  • Five Little Pigs 1942
  • The Hollow 1946
  • Taken at the Flood 1948
  • Mrs McGinty's Dead 1952
  • After the Funeral 1953
  • Hickory Dickory Dock 1955
  • Dead Man's Folly 1956
  • Cat Among the Pigeons 1959
  • The Clocks 1963
  • Third Girl 1966
  • Hallowe'en Party 1969
  • Elephants Can Remember 1972
  • Curtain 1975
  • The Monogram Murders 2014
  • Closed Casket 2016
  • Poirot Investigates 1924
  • Murder in the Mews 1937
  • The Regatta Mystery 1939
  • The Labours of Hercules 1947
  • The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories 1948
  • Three Blind Mice and Other Stories 1950
  • The Under Dog and Other Stories 1951
  • The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding 1960
  • Double Sin and Other Stories 1961
  • Poirot's Early Cases 1974
  • Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories 1991
  • The Harlequin Tea Set 1997
  • While the Light Lasts and Other Stories 1997
  • Alibi 1931
  • Black Coffee 1931
  • Lord Edgware Dies 1934
  • The Alphabet Murders 1965
  • Murder on the Orient Express 1974
  • Death on the Nile 1978
  • Evil Under the Sun 1982
  • Appointment with Death 1988
  • Murder on the Orient Express 2017
  • Alibi 1928
  • Black Coffee 1930
  • Peril at End House 1932
  • Wasp's Nest 1937
  • The Yellow Iris 1937, radio
  • Thirteen at Dinner 1985
  • Dead Man's Folly 1986
  • Murder in Three Acts 1986
  • Murder by the Book 1986
  • Agatha Christie's Poirot 1989–2013
  • Murder on the Orient Express 2001
  • Agatha Christie's Great Detectives Poirot and Marple 2004–2005
  • Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express 2006
  • Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile 2007
  • Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun 2007
  • Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders 2009
  • Black Coffee
  • Tropes in Agatha Christie's novels
  • Miss Marple
  • Agatha Christie's fictional universe

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Coffee Prince novel – For You Guide

The Good And Bad About Coffee

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