The Mysterious Affair at Styles

I am shockingly uneducated when it comes to Agatha Christie, or indeed any classic mystery novelist, though I have read a couple volumes and most of her short stories. My attitude was always to save the classics till I was older for fear of becoming too high brow. Now that a few years have passed I have a little less patience for poor writing, and figure I might as well go for quality.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles introduces us to the charming and extremely astute Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The narrator, Hastings, is paying a visit at Styles Hall to his old friend John Cavendish, wife Mary, and brother Lawrence. John’s stepmother stills owns the estate and has recently remarried Alfred Inglethorp, a yonger man whom everyone else dislikes. Also present are Mrs. Inglethorp’s companion Evie Howard and protégée Cynthia Murdoch. After a violent quarrel with her husband Mrs. Inglethorp is murdered with strychenine during the night, but somehow the evidence seems a little too neat for Poirot.

I really enjoyed this dizzying web of secrets, all of which are unravelled by the end. This is one of the few I read before, and though the premise and method seemed familiar I didn’t know the killer. That stayed true throughout the book–most of my suspicions were off as usual.

Actually, I would be immensely impressed with anyone who guessed the final destination of this convoluted route. Parts of it seemed a bit contrived to me (I won’t give spoilers), so that like Hastings what we are led to believe isn’t always necessarily the truth. I do enjoy poison as a murder weapon though, not only for the lack of gore but also because it opens up so many more opportunities.

I was slightly annoyed with Hastings, who seemed a little too ridiculous. He is observant but opinionated, as as Poirot points out he lacks the intuition often crucial for detecting. He is infatuated with Mary and then Cynthia as well, which clouds his judgment. He is a good-hearted fellow, though, and I hope he improves with time.

I hadn’t even realized that this was on the Guardian list– I’m racking them up unintentionally. I’d like to shoot for one a month chronologically so July will bring up The Secret Adversary, one of the few others I’ve read and the introduction of Tommy and Tuppence.

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Published in: on June 28, 2009 at 5:33 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Sounds good – I havent read her and as I sit here I am wondering why havent I?

    I will get going on that.

    One Persons Journey Through a World of Books


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