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#BookReview of The Mysterious Affair at Styles

  7 Oct 2019 |    3 minutes  |   Paul Mitchell

Book Cover of The Mysterious Affair At Styles

Title:  The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Author:  Agatha Christie
Date Published:  21 Jan, 1921
Genre:  Mystery and Suspense
Publisher:  The Bodley Head
ISBN:  978-0007527496
Series:  Hercule Poirot #1
Pages:  288
Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Mysterious Affair at Styles was the first book written by the great Agatha Christie. It is a quaint, very British story written in 1916 during the 1st World War. The novel introduces us to the brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Captain Arthur Hastings is invited to Styles Court by an old friend John Cavendish to recover from injuries sustained during the war. While there John’s step-mother Emily Inglethorp is found dead in her bedroom, believed to be killed by strychnine poisoning. Hasting’s suggests to John that an old friend Hercule Poirot may be able to help. He’s a former Belgian police detective who is, fortunately, staying in the local village of Styles, St. Mary.

Hercule Poirot agrees at once to help with the investigation and accompanies Hastings back to Styles Court. Poirot soon learns that Emily Inglethorp was very rich, inheriting the estate and wealth from her former husband. Those staying at the house include Emily’s husband Alfred Inglethorp, her step-sons John and Lawrence Cavendish, John’s wife Mary, Cynthia Murdoch whose parents are deceased and of course Hastings. Poirot throws himself straight away into the investigation, examining the body and the bedroom where the tragedy occurred. At once he has found clues that were not obvious to Hastings including a piece of burnt paper in the fireplace. The letters on which indicate that it was part of a last will and testament, could this be the reason for the murder?

My Review

The story is written from the viewpoint of Hastings who provides the narrative. Firstly giving us an insight into the idyllic life at the manor, followed by a first-hand description of the murder scene. Agatha Christie gives us various clues and red-herrings using Hastings; where he provides his own opinions as to the murderer. It’s a clever technique by the author to put us off the scent of the killer, providing us with alternative theories.

We follow Hasting and Poirot around the house, gaining access to the clues that he and Poirot find. The reader feels his frustrations with Poirot when the little detective fails to Share his thoughts and when Poirot wanders off alone in search of information. He is also seen providing theories to his friends using seeds planted by Poirot.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is a charming view of life in the early 1900’s in a very class-driven society. We have the upper-class Cavendish family who own Styles Court, and the servants, maids, gardeners who perform their duties in the background. As a whodunnit, the novel achieves its aims and keeps you guessing who the murderer is right up until the point that Hercule Poirot identifies them.

The book is a fine introduction to the Hercule Poirot series, and to Agatha Christie novels if you haven’t tried any yet.


e-book note:

The physical book contains various maps and images ‘drawn by Hastings’ to aid the reader. Unfortunately, the e-book that I read did not contain these. Now, while the story itself is still great, it might be something you might want to consider before choosing a format.

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