Books by Charles Osborne

SPIDER’S WEB by Agatha Christie
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Nov. 1, 2000

"Better than Christie/Osborne's Black Coffee (1998), not as good as The Unexpected Guest (1999). If this adaptation repeats the sales of those two, expect an Osborne version of Verdict, Christie's last original mystery play, in time for next Christmas."
Osborne's third novelization of a Christie play—this one based on a 1954 original that ran for two years alongside the West End perennials Witness for the Prosecution and The Mousetrap—takes place in still another country house that, except for the impending hush-hush visit of the Prime Minister and the Soviet premier, could be frozen back in the '20s. As Copplestone Court's latest tenant, rising Foreign Office star Henry Hailsham-Brown, orders his wife Clarissa to get the place ready for his big event, she's already in deeper waters. Minutes earlier, she'd faced off with Oliver Costello, current husband and rumored drug supplier to Henry's ex. Unsavory Oliver threatened to launch a custody battle for Henry's beloved daughter Pippa. And on returning secretly to Copplestone soon after, Costello is promptly murdered, and Clarissa, frantically attempting to preserve the peace Henry needs for his all-important meeting, enlists the aid of three houseguests to hide the body from Inspector Lord, who despite his blandness has much too sharp an eye to be fooled by such rank amateurs. Both the dramaturgy and most of the characters, as usual, are stock—you can almost hear the swish of the curtain falling on the first two acts—but Clarissa, a charming liar, supplies some much-needed humor and pep to the tired proceedings. Read full book review >
THE UNEXPECTED GUEST by Agatha Christie
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

Christie biographer Osborne's second novelization of a Christie play (Black Coffee, 1998) opens with a wonderfully arresting scene: engineer Michael Starkwedder, having run his car into a ditch while poking around the Welsh countryside looking at houses, enters Richard Warwick's house looking for help, only to find the man himself, a big-game hunter now confined to a wheelchair, shot to death. When Richard's wife Laura confesses to the killing, Starkwedder, struck by sympathy for her sufferings at the hands of this brute, encourages her to fake evidence against a fictitious intruder for Inspector Thomas and his quotation-spouting sergeant to find. Veteran readers of the author's work will watch in fascination, secure in the knowledge that Starkwedder and Laura aren't the only ones in the household playing fast and loose, and untroubled by the certainty that the other intimates—Richard's mother, his retarded half-brother, his housekeeper and valet, a neighbor standing for Parliament—have no more moving parts than necessary to keep the twists coming. It's not clear what Christie, who got into playwriting in mid-career because she thought other writers' stage adaptations of her novels too slavish and unsimplified, would have thought of Osborne's close, stingy reworking of her 1958 play. Here, though, Osborne, working with much less creaky material than Black Coffee, manages a few surprises worthy of his master. Read full book review >