The following is being linked to as part of the Cannonball Read, the reading challenge I’m participating in during 2016. My goal is 52 books. By all means, join in, share your thoughts, read with me! There are few things I love so much as talking about books.
Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee is frothy, mildly offensive (much like hyoscine), and formulaic. The miserly, inventive patriarch of the Amory family has called in Detective Poirot because he suspects someone in his family is attempting to steal a formula that is incredibly important. Poirot shows up, but not before the thief murders Sir Amory as well. There are xenophobic undertones, spy hijinks, bemused spinster aunts, and absolutely nothing of any note. Put together, the book’s parts are entirely underwhelming.
I typically pick up a Christie novel when I’m looking for something light, but literate. It’s notable that this book was actually her attempt at a play. It was adapted into a novel by Charles Osborne in 1997, twenty years after Christie’s death. As I don’t have the script of the play to compare, I will just express disappointment with the book, and not the author. Nearly every character is a caricature (see above, re: bemused spinster aunt). We have hints of interesting characters in Lucia and her husband Richard, but even then, they receive barely a hint of page time. Poirot, as always, is smug and patronizing, but hey, maybe you go for that sort of thing.
If you read mysteries for the sake of the mystery, I think this one will leave you cold. There’s barely any “there” there. I enjoy solving a mystery along with the detective, and a well-written mystery will have clues interspersed along the way. Those clues, much like the rest of the substance in this book, were an afterthought, and very few.
One more note on Amory’s formula: it is unfathomable to me that an amateur scientist would be able to contain a formula to “bombard the atom” (I have no idea what that means) in his country home in post-WWI England, especially with all the prospective murderers running around. But in this book, the disregard for national security is treated as an eccentricity. We’re told that Amory has been wretched to his companions, but we see none of this. Yet another of the book’s oversights.