Review: Black Coffee

Black Coffee
Black Coffee by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #1 for 2017
GenreLand: Fiction
Better World Books Tasks:
– A book with a color in the title
– A book under 200 pages
– A book by a female writer
– A book that’s been adapted into a movie
Read Harder Task: A book published between 1900 and 1950
PopSugar Tasks:
– A book by an author who uses a pseudonym
– A book written by someone you admire
– A book with an eccentric character
– A book that’s mentioned in another book
Book Bingo Square: A Book from the Library
Legendary Book Club of Habitica’s Ultimate Reading Challenge Task: A script or screenplay
Follow the Clues Challenge: Chain 1, Clue 1

This, Christie’s first foray into writing for the stage, usually appears on bibliographies with a 1934 date. That was when it was first published, but it was first produced in 1930. Christie had always been fascinated by the theatre, and this had been evident in her stories, so it’s not surprising that she would explore the play form herself instead of leaving it to other writers. This is not an adaptation of an already published story, but an original Poirot piece, later adapted to the big screen and also novelized.

I have read the Osborne novelization, probably not long after it first came out. I don’t really remember much about it, but of course it’s likely that I did subconsciously remember some of the elements of the plot, which might be why this puzzle seemed rather simple to me. It’s also possible that Christie meant for the solution to be a bit obvious to the audience so that Poirot, arriving on scene later and putting it all together without the benefit of having actually witnessed certain things, would seem just that much more brilliant.

I regret that I’m not familiar enough with early 20th-century plays to know if this script was particularly notable or innovative in any way. The contemporary reviews I’ve glanced through seem to be mixed but generally favorable. I think it’s extremely interesting that Christie was writing about atomic weapons in 1930 — and I found the ending particularly satisfying in this regard — but that’s something many reviewers seem to ignore. I’m not sure why.

As I continue in my “completist Christie challenge,” I’m looking forward to watching Christie’s development as a playwright as well as a novelist. I would recommend this to Christie readers and theatre fans in general, but I will warn you that it’s full of typos — in three different languages, no less. I’m not sure if that’s normal for a play that’s been around for nearly 90 years, but some readers may find this too annoying to bother with.

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