on 21 January 2009
This pack consists of two full-cast dramatizations of stories by Ms Christie. In "The Unexpected Guest", a passing house-hunter, Michael Starkwedder, runs his car off the road in a fog. Reaching the nearest house, he finds a woman standing over the dead body of her husband, a gun in her hand. Rather than ring the police, he helps her concoct a story that might exhonerate her.
As you would expect from Miss Christie, this is a story with lots of twists, lots of suspects and red-herrings. The cast are very good, relishing their roles and making each character distinctive. It really is like watching a play in the theatre.
The Pale Horse has always been one of my favourite Christie stories. Its tale of witchcraft, black magic and death wished from afar makes it a unique entry in Christie's work. Mark Easterbrook discovers that people whose name appears on a certain list all died suddenly. The only connection appears to be The Pale Horse, a converted cottage inhabited by three women, who claim to be able to control certain elemental forces. Of course, such an idea is too wild to be credible, and yet those people died.
The air of menace in this story is palpable. The cast really shine, and the denouement is as brilliant as anything in the Christie canon.
on 8 February 2011
You get 2 CDs, total time 2 hrs 35 minutes.
The two stories are totally unrelated. I enjoyed listening to them both at bed-time, in half-hour sessions.
The dramatisation works really well, you always know who is speaking and the voices are very clear and animated. The emotions are exaggerated so you know very well whether they said it ruefully, or with a pained expression.
Accents tend to be larger-than-life British upper-class, which suits the characters and the upper-class world in which the stories take place. I almost imagine them going round in dinner-jackets most of the time.
There is not much in the way of sound effects, it relies mostly on the voices.
If you are not familiar with Agatha Christie's work, she wrote to a different set of make-believe rules than today, which makes it seem quaint. The stories are primarily a puzzle to be solved by the reader, the murders are not graphically described at all.
I found that the challenge of solving the crimes in both stories was enough to keep me interested, but I was quite happy to leave the solution to be revealed at the end.
I paid less than four quid for it from Amazon, which makes it stunning value.
on 13 March 2011
Another superb Agatha Christie drama for my collection.
Listening to The Unexpected Guest was almost as good as being at the theatre. I saw the play at the Royal Theatre, Windsor a few years ago, with Dean Gaffney (Robbie Jackson in Eastenders) as Jan. Although I gave up on Eastenders years ago I was pleasantly surprised to see how good he was in the role (he doesn't feature in this dramatisation). A clever story with lots of twists and red herrings and superbly acted.
The Pale Horse is one of Christie's later novels, set in the early sixties, but the story is every bit as good. The sleuth is really Mark Easterbrook, the main male character, although Ariadne Oliver (Stephanie Cole) does feature. A good story with plenty of characters, all easily recognisable and well played, with full radio sound effects.
My only moan, due to the available length of CDs, CD1 contains all The Unexpected Guest and a small portion of The Pale Horse with the reminder of this on CD2, but this is preferable to having some of the story cut. Great value at just over three pounds and faithful to the original stories.
on 2 July 1999
On a very foggy night in Wales, Michael Starkwedder runs his car into a ditch. He goes to the nearest house where he finds Laura Warwick who confesses to having murdered her husband, Richard, a person confined to a wheelchair.
Instead of calling the police, he coaxes Laura into telling her story. She provides him with the details of why and how she killed her abusive spouse. Michael agrees to help her hide the truth by blaming it on someone else. Laura chooses MacGregor. The Canadian tourist hates Richard for running over his child in a DUI incident in which the law dropped the charges against the pompous Richard. Sergeant Cadwallader and Inspector Thomas investigate only to learn that the Canadian died two years ago. What is the nest step for Michael and Laura?
BLACK COFFEE, the latest adaptation of an Agatha Christie play, was an entertaining novella that fans fully enjoyed. The second "Agatha light" tale, THE UNEXPECTED GUEST, is an entertaining story that continues to stays true to the twists that became the trademark of the great Ms. Christie. Charles Osborne does a brilliant conversion that will please fans of the famous novelist and bring in new readers who will hunt for one-hundred per cent pure Christie works.
on 4 July 2000
While many did not like the previous novel adapted by Charles Osborne, "Black Coffee" was an inferior play to begin with, much like many of Agatha Christie's own short stories.
This new novel, "Unexpected Guest", was from a more complicated story and thus is a more satisfying experience by comparison: and Charles Osborne's knowledge of Christies really show. I suppose anyone who has read his excellent biography on Agatha Christie would know that already. The novel reads like a vintage Christie, and I am very happy with the experience, and would recommend it heartily to not only Christie fans, but to new readers who wants to start of with one of Christie's more exciting plots, without the burden of excessive setups (like Death on the Nile).
on 5 April 2014
This is not as good as an 'original Christie', because too often it is obvious from the writing that it was written as a play that has been turned into a novel. Some of the sentences are so obviously stage directions. But it is enjoyable for all that. The story starts with a stranger running his car into a ditch on a Welsh road in fog, and going to a nearby house, where he finds a murdered man - and the man's wife standing nearby with a gun in her hand. It seems obvious that she killed him, but that was not Miss Christie's way, and the story turns this way and that, until it seems anyone in the house might have done it. The ending again is so obviously written for the stage, and somewhat contrived, but it is still worth reading this book, even if you do find yourself imagining the characters acting it out in stage as you read it.
on 19 November 2011
The stories on these two CD,s are very good. I particularly liked the Unexpected Guest. The stories have a twist in the tale and are very much in Christie's style. They are put over well by the BBC radio 4 cast and make very good listening. If like me you enjoy listening to good short stories with a little intrigue and a ending that is not easily predicted then I would certainly recommend these, especially at the very reasonable price offered by Amazon.
Though I found it irritating to have the Pale Horse begin on the end of the same CD as the Unexpected Guest, it is a shame the two stories could not be on individual CD's.
on 8 May 2002
Penned in only four weeks this Agatha Christie murder mystery was originally written as a play in 1958, but has recently been adapted as a novel by Charles Osborne. It was written, it seemed, to answer back the critics who had slated her previous play, 'Verdict' and was a big success at the time.
It centres around the grim discovery made by a traveller in South Wales called Michael Starkwedder ('I know it's an unusual name'). After apparently driving his car into a ditch one misty night and stumbling into a nearby house to get help, he finds the body of a murdered man slumped in his wheelchair, and his dazed wife standing in the same room holding a gun. Open and shut case right ? Come on, this is an Agatha Christie tale !
Before you know it a whole host of suspects to this crime emerge (both inside the household and out) and through this maze of deception and trickery the earnest Inspector Thomas and his dreamy sidekick Sergeant Cadwallader (who rather annoyingly keeps quoting poetry) must somehow find the truth.
The murdered man, Richard Warwick, a one-time big game hunter in Africa, had no shortage of enemies, as his disability turned him into a less than endearing character. But who could have been driven to murder him ? His wife Laura Warwick ? Heaven knows she was sorely tested by Richard, but what about MacGregor, the father of a child that Richard had accidentally killed a few years before when he lived in Norfolk ? Can he be traced even ?
Other suspects include the housekeeper, the rather evasive Miss Bennett, a sub-normal boy called Jan, who has a fascination for guns, and Richard's nurse-attendant, Angell. Even Richard's mother, the rather strident Mrs Warwick senior does not seem unduly upset. Julian Farrar, Laura Warwick's secret suitor and an aspiring MP might have had a motive and what of Starkwedder ? Was the unexpected guests arrival purely chance ?
This engrossing play-cum-novel keeps you guessing throughout. As new leads are opened up, old certainties are disproved, until you really have to feel for the police, especially Inspector Thomas who has to try and solve the case with the liability of a sergeant he is lumbered with. Cadwallader's lack of adroitness as a detective is somewhat compensated by the humour he introduces at times, but oh, that poetry !
All the action (save for a couple of scenes in the garden) take place in one room, the study where Richard Warwick's lifeless body was found. The focal point of this room and indeed the whole novel are undoubtedly the french windows, with numerous entries and exits through these portals interplaying with the constant shifting about of the room that the various parties indulge in. Why on earth can't they sit still ?
Like all the other Agatha Christie novels I have read I am careful to minutely examine and weigh up every detail that is revealed (particularly at the start) in the hope of picking up something that 'doesn't quite fit'. I managed it this time, and whilst it was tempting later on to change my mind, I stuck to my guns and was eventually vindicated, but I'm blowed if I'll tell you what it was !
on 22 June 2014
I bought this so I could work & 'read'. It is well produced and makes an excellent alternative to reading a book. Highly recommend for the visually impaired who still want to enjoy a book. Good for listening in the car, at bedtime, in the gym, or working at home. I am a lecturer so have to produce lessons at home and listening to a book enables me to do 2 jobs at the same time.
on 21 November 2010
Both these plays were excellent. Well acted and far better than watching them on Television. I used to enjoy Radio 4's plays but do not find them as good lately. I find I am able to picture the action in my mind's eye when the play is well acted on the radio/CD. I find these plays very relaxing when driving.