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.
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.
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.”