I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Genres: Mystery, British, Historical
Published by AmazonClassics on October 1920
Source: my own shelves
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Also by this author: The Mysterious Affair at Styles , And Then There Were None, The Secret Adversary, The Unexpected Guest, Partners in Crime
Christie’s first novel and the first in the Hercule Poirot historical mystery series revolving around that famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles was the result of a dare from her sister Madge who challenged her to write a story and introduced the unflappable Belgian sleuth who would set the standard for the modern murder mystery.
It’s nice and all that Emily Cavendish is so active with and loves her charities as well as taking people in, if only she didn’t “insist” on their being grateful for it. I hate people like that.
Hastings thinks he’s all that, and Poirot goes on to show us how wrong Hastings is. Poor baby. And we know it all from Christie using first person subjective point-of-view from Hastings’ perspective as he tries to get us to share his values and his assessment of his abilities, lol.
It’s character-driven with most of the action revolving around Poirot’s assessing their motivations with alibis galore, not all of which the characters share. Some of the choices made are odd and make the person appear more guilty. And of course, the guilt is being shared all around. Back histories pop up throughout, and all of this creates gaps that make it easier for Christie to confuse me.
It’s all about the details.
Sent back to England from the First World War due to injury, Hastings is invited to spend his sick leave at beautiful Styles Court by his old friend John Cavendish.
Hastings meets again with John’s stepmother, Mrs Inglethorp, and with her new husband, Alfred. Despite the tranquil surroundings, it doesn’t feel right, and when Mrs Inglethorp is found poisoned, suspicion falls on the family.
Luckily, an old friend of Hastings’, Hercule Poirot, is invited to investigate.
Hastings has been invalided out from the front and has a month to recuperate.
Monsieur Hercule Poirot is one of a group of Belgian refugees whom Emily Cavendish helped to escape from their country. They’re all staying at Leastways Cottage.
Styles Court is . . .
. . . the Cavendish country house in Styles St Mary, Essex, bought by John and Lawrence’s father but left to their self-absorbed stepmother, Emily, for her lifetime. John Cavendish, a friend of Hastings back when they were boys, had been a lawyer. Mary is John’s wife. Lawrence is John’s younger brother who had started in medicine but decided on literary pursuits. Cynthia Murdoch is an orphan Emily has taken in; Cynthia works as a pharmacist at the Red Cross Hospital at Tadminster.
Evelyn “Evie” Howard is Emily’s companion. Alfred Inglethorp was recently hired as Emily’s secretary, and she’s since married him. Baily is the coachman? chauffeur? Dorcas is the parlourmaid; Annie is one of the housemaids; and, Elizabeth Wells is the second housemaid. Manning is the gardener; young William Earl is the under gardener.
Dr Bauerstein, an expert in poisons, is doing a rest cure in Styles St Mary. Farmer Raikes has a very pretty wife. Lady Tadminster and Mrs Crosbie are potentials for opening fêtes. Mrs Rolleston is Lady Tadminster’s sister. Nibs is a fellow dispenser with whom Cynthia works. Dr Wilkins is the local physician. Denby is the Cavendish accountant. Mr Wells is the Cavendish lawyer; he’s also the Coroner. Ross is a caterer in Tadminster. Albert Mace is the local chemist’s assistant. Amy Hill is a shop assistant.
Detective Inspector James Japp remembers Poirot and various cases including the Abercombie forgery and Baron Altara. Superintendent Summerhaye has never worked with Poirot.
Sir Ernest Heavywether is the K.C. engaged for the defense. Mr Philips, K.C., is the prosecutor.
The Cover and Title
The cover is simple with an angled dividing line creating a cream upper and a grayed-green lower. In the center is a framed circle focusing on a wide-striped coffee cup on a saucer against a mottled green-and-white background. The title is centered in the top half in black. The author’s name is in cream beneath the circle graphic. Beneath this is the publisher’s information bracketed by a horizontal line above and below, also in cream.
The title is all about The Mysterious Affair at Styles where alibis and lives are all askew.