The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

(Hercule Poirot, #1)

Set in Essex in the English countryside, The Mysterious Affair at Styles is one of the great classic murder mysteries. The victim, Mrs. Emily Inglethorp, is the wealthy mistress of Styles Court. After an evening of entertaining family and guests, she is found poisoned in her locked bedroom. The long list of suspects includes her gold-digging new husband, her stepsons, her best female friend, and a visiting doctor.

Here, in her first published mystery, Agatha Christie introduces us to her beloved Belgian protagonist, inspector Hercule Poirot, who methodically pieces together the intricate evidence of this bewildering crime. From his very first appearance, Poirot amuses us with his oddly fastidious habits--then astonishes us with the power of his razor-sharp mind. Christie keeps us guessing as to the murderer's identity until Poirot finally presents his ingenious solution to this landmark mystery. And, voila, one of the genre's most famous sleuths is born.

"Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master."

I have a goal to read all of Poirot's stuff - order isn't terribly important for this type of 'series', but I don't want to touch his final act and book, Curtain, until I've read the others. Just an OCD reader thing.

The mystery itself was baffling (closed room rocks), but I didn't care much until the surprising end about the culprit. It's hard to explain why, but maybe because the characters didn't draw me in much, besides the main detective Poirot and the semi-clueless Hastings. The book was completely enjoyable, though, as Poirot shines when he's introduced in this first book featuring the Belgian detective. He doesn't focus on his mustache quite as much yet, alludes to the little grey cells only once, but steals the scenes wherever he goes. Hastings is amusing - I admit some of his books I found dry but I'll have to revisit - but here he's likable as the narrator. I don't get his thing for the women, though, were all men so easily led into marriage back then?

“Sometimes I feel sure he is as mad as a hatter and then, just as he is at his maddest, I find there is a method in his madness.” 

Even if I felt little for the victim or cared about the accused cast, I didn't figure out the ending and liked the neat curveball Christie threw the readers way, something I never saw coming. The clues add up but, like Hastings, I'm too dense to get them. It's amazing how Agatha could conceive and hold all that in her mind, but then there is a reason she still stands as one of the very best in detective fiction.

Overall a great book featuring Poirot. It's a fast, smooth read with stylish dialogue, a few twists thrown in every few chapters to keep the waters from feeling too calm and keeping the readers mind working. I wasn't entranced by the players, though, so this is not a five-star rating. Still, it's worth a read for mystery fans.

   Book Quotes:

“Hasting - There are times when it is one's duty to assert oneself.” 

“Decidedly it was the policy of an imbecile.” 

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