The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Affair at Styles Agatha ChristieThe Mysterious Affair at Styles: “The intense interest aroused in the public by what was known at the time as ‘The Styles Case’ has now somewhat subsided.”

Detective: Hercule Poirot

Published: 1920 (1st published book)

Length: 224 pages

Setting: Essex

Written at: Dartmoor

Published in 1920, The Mysterious Affair at Styles is not only Agatha Christie’s first published novel but the first to introduce the reader to Hercule Poirot, her fastidious yet likeable Belgian detective whose mind nimbly gathers clues, deftly processes information and cunningly solves murders with style and aplomb.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles Melbury House

~ source Wikimedia Commons

In this mystery, Captain Hastings, invalided during WWI, is visiting his longtime friend, John Cavendish at Styles where he runs into Hercule Poirot who is a refugee from the war and is staying in the village of Styles St. Mary . Little does he know he will soon need the little detective’s assistance as Emily Inglethorp, John’s step-mother, is cruelly poisoned, the murderer using the merciless drug strychnine.

The Hay Wain John Constable

The Hay Wain by John Constable ~ source Wikipedia

Why does Mary Cavendish, John’s wife, appear so uneasy? Why does Lawrence, John’s brother, give a ludicrous explanation of the death? Why is there a splash of candle grease on the carpet and a burnt fragment of paper in the fire? And why does Mrs. Inglethorp’s new husband admit to buying the strychnine, an admission that clearly places the burden of the guilt squarely upon him?  A new will, a soundly sleeping girl, an argument overheard and a missing key all add up to a mystery more puzzling than anyone can solve. Except for Poirot who methodically follows the clues and pieces together a plan so dastardly that it makes one gasp for the audaciousness of it.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles Agatha Christie

source Wikipedia

As a result of a bet, Christie set out to create a detective story in which the reader would be unable to guess the murderer even though he had the same clues as the detective. So could I spot the culprit?  Not at all.  The plot is indeed complex with many rabbit trails and dead ends that turn the reader in circles.  Christie relied heavily on characters avoiding the truth or telling falsehoods to protect others but it was in the scope of normal life so it remained realistic.  It was a fine example of a first novel and it’s no wonder that Christie became the queen of mystery novels.

I read this novel at the behest of Fanda and although I’m not officially participating in her Agatha Christie Perpetual Reading Challenge, I suppose with this first read complete and the second one, The Secret Adversary already on order from the library, you could colour me an unofficial participant.  Thanks for the push, Fanda!

                                                                                               The Secret Adversary

18 thoughts on “The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

  1. i don’t recall the plot but i do remember the total thrill of reading it. AC’s gifts were obvious from the beginning: that witty, sensitive style, reminiscent of domestic England and the wonderful relationship between Poirot and Hastings… i highly recommend the series with David Suchet if you haven’t seen it… it’s remarkably good…

    • Ah yes, Poirot and Hastings. I found Hastings rather petulant in this one at times. It will be interesting to see how their relationship progresses. And I actually own almost all of the series and watch them reasonably regularly. Suchet is the perfect Poirot!

  2. Poirot, likeable? See, that is the usual reaction and I for one have never understood it. I never had problems with Holmes, or how Holmes and Watson interacted, but Poirot I just wanted to throttle for his arrogance. And how he treats Hastings got on my nerves (can’t remember if it was this book or others but my goodness, drove me batty).

    I liked most of Christie’s non-Poirot stuff thankfully.

    • Poirot is rather fastidious and full of himself, but it’s realistic for someone as brilliant as he is to become that way. I don’t think he means to be condescending, but it’s a trait he’s developed; however he does treat people with some understanding, as if they’re small children who just don’t get it instead of having an impatient arrogance which I wouldn’t like. I’ve noticed in older books that people tend to have more patience for different personality types than we do nowadays. I assume its because we’ve become more homogeneous so there is less tolerance for diversity (even though we claim otherwise). Often I’ll read through a book and think that a particular character would drive me crazy whereas the characters in the books seem to take them in stride and to me are quite patient with them. In this book it was Hastings who bothered me. If he didn’t understand what Poirot was talking about, or Poirot wouldn’t share something with him, he’d have an internal sulk. Now his inner thoughts were continually being shared with the reader and if all our inner thoughts were shared with others, we perhaps wouldn’t appear any better so I don’t want to be too hard on him but at times I wanted to say, “Good grief, man, do you want your bottle and soother?” 😀 The next book is a Tommy and Tuppence mystery. I remember loving these books so I hope I still have the same experience!

  3. Ah, you tempt me to revisit all by Christie. I must begin at Styles. Note: I prefer Poirot over Marple. He and I are kindred quirky ducks. Your posting is excellent!

    • I like both Poirot and Marple in the series but I have yet to determine who I like best in the books. Thanks for the kind words!

  4. I’m so excited that you are reading Christie – I’ve been on a 5 year quest to read all of her novel-length mysteries, and I plan to finish this year! I love Poirot, and the affable Hastings is hit or miss for me – sometimes he is so thick I can’t stand it. I prefer Poirot to Marple, but I think that the scatty, apple-obsessed Ariadne Oliver is my absolute favorite Christie character!

    • I’ve seen your Christie marathon and it’s been inspiring! You must be so excited to finish on one hand and sad too on the other. Okay, I now am curious about Adriadne Oliver. I’d better get reading!! 🙂

  5. I simply cannot remember if I read this one or not and considering I have read most of work’s of AC including her autobiography! I love her writings and while I do not always become fond of her protagonists, (I love Ms, Marple though) I love everything else about these books! I think i will go ahead and pull out this one and read it again! Excellent review as always!

    • Thanks, Cirtnecce! They’re quite and interesting reads which I should have been interspersing between my tomes. They sort of refresh you! I hope you have fun with the one you choose!

    • Her books are alot of fun to read. I’ve read a good number of them but I’m realizing that there are many I haven’t read. Thanks for your kind words, Carol! 🙂

  6. Ha, I just picked this up from the library, without even realized you’d read it recently! Must be something in the air… Christie’s novels are usually so enjoyable and it’s fun to have a quick read every so often. Looking forward to it.

    • Well, you know what they say about “great minds”, lol! 😉 I’m on #3 Christie now and this one is the best constructed ….. so far …..

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