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The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)

by Agatha Christie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hercule Poirot (1)

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6,2352041,094 (3.74)475
Set in the summer of 1917, the story follows the war-wounded Hastings to the Styles St. Mary estate of his friend John Cavendish. The Cavendish household is wrought with tension due to the marriage of John's widowed mother to a suspicious younger man. In the village, Hastings runs into his old friend Hercule Poirot and, when the estate's trouble turns deadly, the friends unite to solve a most baffling case.… (more)

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English (193)  Italian (3)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  German (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (204)
Showing 1-5 of 193 (next | show all)
I read this for "Country House Mystery" square. "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" by Agatha Christie deals with the murder of the wealthy Mrs. Emily Inglethorp at her country home, Styles. This book brings together for the first time, Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, and Inspector Japp.

This was a cleverly done plot though I'm not going to lie, I really didn't understand a thing til the ending. I'm still maybe a bit confused about things since I think the final solution was a bit convoluted. I mean I don't care, I liked the story a lot, but Poirot connecting things at the end I did go wait a second, what.

I will always love Poirot treating Hastings like an imbecile though. And we get to see Hastings at 30 and acting a fool over women per usual. I did crack up at one scene where he makes his intentions clear, the woman laughed at him. Twice.

Poirot was great, though I see signs of the later Poirot that started to bug me with his keeping everyone in the dark and revealing all later. I do wonder why no criminals would not start refusing gatherings held by Poirot in the later books. I would have declined and fled.

We do get some key players in this one that I liked though. We follow two brothers, stepsons to Mrs. Inglethorp. However, it is really the women that shone more for me in this book. Mary Cavendish, John's wife, and the friend of the family, Cynthia were great.

The book takes place during World War I so we get to see an England at war, though it doesn't read that way except for a few small details here and there.

I would still rate "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" higher than this one, though this is a favorite too. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
A sinister beard
the sexiest facial hair
poisoner or not. ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
Now more than 100 years old, "The Mysterious Affair At Styles" still feels modern, partly because of its playful tone and partly because it redefined the whodunnit.

I read my first Agatha Christie book two years ago, starting at the wrong end of both Christie's and Poirot's career with "Elephants Can Remember", the fortieth and last Poirot book. It was written in 1972 when Agatha Christie was in her eighties and it seemed rather faded to me. Since then I've read another six Poirot books, the best of which was "The Murder OF Roger Ackroyd" and the worst was "Appointment With Death" that I abandoned part way through.

Along the way, I've become intrigued by Christie's not always sympathetic relationship with the "funny little Belgian" that she wrote forty novels about. I decided the best way to follow the relationship was to start at the beginning with the first Poirot book, which was also Christie's first book "The Mysterious Affair At Styles".

Although it wasn't published until 1920, Christie wrote "The Mysterious Affair At Styles" in 1916 in the middle of World War I, when she was twenty-six years old.

I was delighted to find that the book, although more than one hundred years old, feels fresh and modern. This is partly achieved by using the narrator, the young Captain Hastings, returned to England to recover from his injuries, as a comic device. Hastings is an educated, slightly naive, upper-class Englishman, with a weakness for auburn-haired young women, whose grasp of the situation is never quite as firm as he thinks it is and whose belief in his own insight significantly exceeds his ability.

Hastings provides the perspective of an absolutely conventional Englishman of good breeding. It is through his eyes that we see Poirot, a strange little Belgian man with an egg-shaped head, small feet and lustrous moustaches who is already described by the young Hastings as old.

I was surprised to find that this Poirot is a refugee, dependent on the generosity a benefactress, a wealthy older woman who is the chatelaine of the local big house. He is not yet a man of substance in England, although, rather conveniently, as an ex-Belgian senior Police Officer he is known to Detectives in Scotland Yard and has a prior acquaintance with Hastings.

At first blush, it seems that Poirot is the figure of fun but it soon becomes clear to the reader, if not to Hastings, that Poirot is the hunter and Hastings is at best his beagle.

I found this piece of humour at Hastings’ expense is wicked but irresistible. Poirot is speaking to Hastings of the cleverness of the as yet unidentified murderer:

‘We must be so intelligent that he does not suspect us of being intelligent at all.’
I acquiesced.
‘There, mon ami, you will be of great assistance to me.’
I was pleased with the compliment. There had been times when I hardly thought that Poirot appreciated me at my true worth.

And I wavered between laughter and exasperation at Hastings' weakness for young women. Here he is investigating a murder, probably looking for a poisoner, probably from a fellow houseguest, when Cynthia, the young and pretty FULLY QUALIFIED PHARMACIST WITH A COMPREHENSIVE KNOWLEDGE OF POISONS asks him to go for a walk with her.

As soon as they're alone:
"With a sigh, Cynthia flung herself down, and tossed off her hat.

The sunlight, piercing through the branches, turned the auburn of her hair to quivering gold.

`Mr Hastings - you are always so kind and you know such a lot.`

Immediately, Hastings' keen detective mind responds with a sudden and deep insight:
"It struck me at this moment that Cynthia was really a very charming girl! Much more so than Mary, who never said things of that kind".

Apart from the way Christie plays with Hastings, the thing that makes this novel feel modern and which must have been ground-breaking in 1916, was the way in which the mystery unfolds.

There is an abundance of suspects, all of whom Hastings' expressed ill-thought-through opinions of, but no obvious front-runner for the role of murderer. We see Poirot collect clues but we don't know what they mean. Poirot refuses to explain to Hastings (or us) instead, challenging us to look again and see the truth. This was an innovative form of story-telling in 1916.

The ending of the book introduces that now familiar concept of the detective gathering all the suspects together in one room and delivering the Great Reveal. The audiobook edition that I listened to included the published Great Reveal ending and an earlier draft which had a slightly clunky exposition of the facts in a court setting. The decision to move from the Court to the Great Reveal launched one of the most popular tropes of detective fiction.

Although the book feels modern, it still gives insight into a world that would be mostly lost by the end of World War I, with the English Upper Class still seeing themselves as ruling an Empire.

Hastings' report on the upper-class family of the murdered old chatelaine at breakfast on the morning after her death is a splendid example of people who, during the slaughter of World War I, wore their manners as tightly as a whalebone corset.

"Under the circumstances, we were naturally not a cheerful party. The reaction after a shock is always trying, and I think we were all suffering from it. Decorum and good breeding naturally enjoined that our demeanour should be much as usual, yet I could not help wondering if this self-control were really a matter of great difficulty."
( )
1 vote MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
Actor James Warwick is the narrator of the ‘Alison Larkin Presents’ version of this novel. He wasn’t too bad I guess. I got a few of his voice characterizations confused though.
As much as I adore the TV series with David Suchet, I find the novels a little boring. I’m going to try another one and see if there is still so much talking. Hopefully this isn’t the case, and I’ll be able to read the rest of them soon.

3.5 stars (lowered from 4 given at my first read), and recommended to die hard Christie enthusiasts. ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
In which a lieutenant, an inspector and a Belgian emigré solve murder during the War.

Let the flaying begin. Well, actually, don’t. Coming 39th on the Agatha Christie rankings isn’t that bad. "Styles" is a seminal novel in 20th century detective fiction: Christie’s first published work, and Hercule Poirot’s first appearance in literature, as well as the introduction of then-Lieutenant Arthur Hastings, and Inspector Japp. Poirot’s methodology is relayed to us by Hastings in a manner very similar to Watson’s introduction of Sherlock Holmes in "A Study in Scarlet". This novel, I rush to point out, is a damn sight better than Holmes’ introductory one, with Poirot emerging almost fully formed, and the country house of Styles a suitably atmospheric host for murder.

The David Suchet adaptation – coming very early on before the series had established a darker visual style – is satisfactory, largely due to Suchet’s ability to create a younger, more ‘foreign’ Poirot. But it doesn’t have the raw power of the later adaptations in the series.

I do have to be honest, though, and confess this is not one of my favourite Poirots. Christie hadn’t yet ironed out her style yet (she had another sixty years of writing to go, so I’ll cut her some slack), and – aside from Poirot – none of the characters really jump off the page. Still, this is an impressively easy read, and all fans should check out where Poirot began his British career (in the same place he would end it sixty years later). If you’re new to the series, keep in mind that Christie will – with experience – challenge her own style in the years to come.

Poirot ranking: 24th out of 38 ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 193 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (49 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christie, Agathaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Curran, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fonticoli, DianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
George, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keilhau, WollertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, WillCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehtonen, PaavoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Suchet, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Symons, JulianForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodman, JeffNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To my Mother
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The intense interest aroused in the public by what was known at the time as "The Styles Case" has now somewhat subsided.
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Set in the summer of 1917 in an Essex country estate, the story follows the war-wounded Captain Arthur Hastings to the Styles St. Mary manor of his friend John Cavendish. The Cavendish household is wrought with tension due to the marriage of John's widowed old aunt Emily, she of a sizeable fortune, to a suspicious younger man, Alfred Inglethorp, twenty years her junior. Emily's two stepsons, John and Lawrence Cavendish, as well as John's wife Mary and several other people, also live at Styles. Late one night, the residents of Styles wake to find Emily Inglethorp dying. When Emily's sudden heart attack is found to be attributable to strychnine, Hastings, who had runs into his old friend, the Belgian Hercule Poirot, he recruits him to aid in the local investigation. With impeccable timing, Hercule Poirot, the insightful retired detective, makes his dramatic entrance to solve a most baffling case.

Who poisoned the wealthy Emily Inglethorpe, and how did the murderer penetrate and escape from her locked bedroom? Suspects abound in the quaint village of Styles St. Mary--from the heiress's fawning new husband to her two stepsons, her volatile housekeeper, and a pretty nurse who works in a hospital dispensary. On the day she was killed, Emily Inglethorp was overheard arguing with someone, most likely her husband, Alfred, or her stepson, John. Afterwards, she seemed quite distressed and, apparently, made a new will--which no one can find. Nobody can explain how or when the strychnine was administered to Mrs. Inglethorp. High on Poirot's list of suspects are: John Cavendish, the elder stepson; Mary Cavendish, his wife; Lawrence Cavendish, the younger stepson; Evelyn Howard, Mrs. Inglethorpe's companion; Cynthia Murdoch, her protegee; and Dr. Bauerstein, a mysterious stranger who lives in Essex. All have motive and opportunity but only Poirot can discover the truth.
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Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102715, 1400109191

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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