The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

1920. Berkley Books. Paperback.198 pages.

From: the public library

In a nutshell: This is the first book in Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot detective mystery series.  The book is narrated by a Mr. Hastings, sent home from the Front on sick leave.  Hastings is invited by an old friend, John Cavendish, to finish his leave at his family estate.  The estate actually is owned by Cavendish’s recently remarried stepmother, Mrs. Inglethorp.  It is she who is the murder victim in the mystery, with any number of suspects, as everyone seems to have at least one secret.

Review:

This is the first Agatha Christie novel I have ever read, and I must thank my cousin Phil for getting me to read it.  Phil has started a Book Group on Facebook, and every couple of months he and I, and assorted other relatives all read the same book.

As far as mysteries are concerned, in recent years I’ve been most drawn to the police procedural type thriller, as opposed to old-fashioned detective mysteries.  I don’t read a lot of mysteries on the whole though.  I had never really had a desire to read Agatha Christie, under the (mistaken) assumption that I have been spoiled by her legacy.  That is, I expected that more recent mysteries in print, film and TV, have employed every trick that Christie was using fresh in her own time.  And so I suspected her mysteries would not seem fresh to me, because I would have seen it all before in derivative form.

Well, I’m pleased to say I was wrong.  Christie makes sure to make almost every character in the book look a little suspicious.  I was pretty sure that this book was not the one where Christie made the narrator the murderer (I think that one is a standalone and I’m glad I don’t remember its title.)  As my suspicions roved around the cast of characters, I was on the right path at one point.  But then, even a broken clock is right two times in a day.

I liked that the everyman Hastings was the narrator.  He is blind to his own faults as most people are, which makes it kind of funny to observe his easily hurt pride and blunders.  But he’s overall a likable chap.  And he is a great perspective from which to watch Poirot work.  Brilliant detectives can be fun to read about, but I think it would be hard to make them good first-person narrators.  I like having a little distance in the perspective.

I think I’ll probably read more Christie mysteries in the future.  The Mysterious Affair at Styles was a quick, pleasant read, good for interspersing among longer, heavier books.

And with that, I’ll leave with a funny statement of one of the characters:

Poor Emily was never murdered until he came along.

Other reviews:

BooksPlease – “I do enjoy those detective stories where you’re given the clues that have been dropped into the narrative throughout the book in a seemingly haphazard way and then are reorganised  at the end as Poirot does in this one to explain how and why the murder was committed.”

FleurFisher – “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” has flaws. Arthur Hastings is too much like John Watson – something that will be corrected in later books – and there are afew two many points that Poirot correctly deduces from no real evidence . . . But there is much more to love.”

Letters from a Hill Farm – “Not only is The Mysterious Affair at Styles the first Hercule Poirot story, but it is her first published novel, period. What a way to start. The talent is right there just bursting at the seams to come out again and again and again throughout her long and prolific writing life.”

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8 Comments

Filed under Mysteries & Thrillers

8 responses to “The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

  1. She

    Ohh! I love Christie, and I’m glad you had a good experience with her. If you’re ever in the mood for one of her books again, might I suggest The Man in the Brown Suit? I remember it being one of my favorites.

  2. I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan and would like to eventually read everything she has written. My favorite of hers though is And Then There Were None. This was an enjoyable read for me as well!

  3. I’ve read a couple of other Poirot books but didn’t really enjoy them, so maybe I need to try this one! I agree with Samantha above that And Then There Were None is a great book. I read that one a few weeks ago and loved it!

  4. I swear I’ve read this book at least three times before, but I can never remember anything about it! Oh well.

    My favorite Christie book is Murder on the Orient Express– definitely try that one if you’re going to continue onward in Christie. 😀

  5. Glad to know that you read your first Christie and loved it 🙂 I love Christie’s books and have been reading them since school days. ‘Murder in Mesopotamia’ was the first Christie I read and I fell in love with Christie with that. My favourites are ‘And Then There Were None’ and ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’. I also loved ‘Death onthe Nile’ because of its exotic Egyptian locales. If you are in the mood for mysteries I would also recommend A.A.Milne’s ‘The Red House Mystery’. It is wonderful and the mystery is ‘un-guessable’!

  6. Thanks everyone for sharing their favorite Christie novels! It’s good to have some recommendations for where to go next with her. 🙂

  7. Pingback: REVIEW: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie » Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog

  8. Pingback: REVIEW: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie - Here There Be Books

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