Title: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication date: September 3, 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins
Length: 297 pages
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased for Book Club
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Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository
Recently, there had been some strange goings on at Styles St Mary. Evelyn, constant companion to old Mrs Inglethorp, had stormed out of the house muttering something about ‘a lot of sharks’. And with her, something indefinable had gone from the atmosphere. Her presence had spelt security; now the air seemed rife with suspicion and impending evil A shattered coffee cup, a splash of candle grease, a bed of begonias – all Poirot required to display his now legendary powers of detection…
The Mysterious Affair at Styles is Christie’s very first novel and thus our very first book club read as well. Even though I’ve read more than twenty of Christie’s books so far, I’ve never read them in order of the original publication date, I just picked up whichever book I could find at the time.
Picking up this book my initial expectations were the following: since it was written 30-40 years before her last publications and it was her very first novel, surely there must be some sort of a difference. I’ve read some of her novels which have been written much later than this one so I expected to find The Mysterious Affair at Styles less detailed or slightly more predictable than those books. Here, I was both right and wrong. While you can feel that she was still trying to find her footing, it was already a very detailed and very well plotted book with great twists and turns.
What made this book different from all the other Christie books I’ve read so far was the fact that this one is narrated by Arthur Hastings, Poirot’s friend. At first I found Hastings narrative a bit monotonous and dry so it took me a little while before I got into it and got used to his style. The Hastings – Poirot duo definitely adds a bit of fun to the book, however. Hastings is a bit naive, and absolutely clueless about what’s going on which makes him even more likeable. In a way, he represents us readers: Poirot is the mastermind and Hastings is just like us: he tries to put the puzzle pieces together and figure out who did what and what their motive was – in vain. I also love the fact that Poirot seems to treat him like his pupil – he tries to explain things to him and teach him how to think logically and methodically – they really are an entertaining pair.
All in all, I think The Mysterious Affair at Styles was a great start to Poirot’s “long and successful career” – it’s definitely much better than what I initially expected and it’s actually one of those stories that left me completely and utterly baffled. Even though I’m usually quite good at predicting who’s the guilty one, I had no clue who the murderer might be here. Another thing I really enjoyed was the fact that Poirot was dealing with a very intelligent criminal here, which always makes things a bit more complicated. Christie really builds up the tension towards the end of the story and believe me, you won’t be able to put it down. Another fantastic page-turner from the Queen of Crime!