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The Mysterious Affair At Styles (original 1920; edition 1975)

by Agatha Christie

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4,2371201,172 (3.73)355
Member:clong
Title:The Mysterious Affair At Styles
Authors:Agatha Christie
Info:Dodd Mead (1975), Edition: First, Hardcover, 313 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:mystery/detectives, returned

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The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (1920)

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The first book Agatha Christie published was also her first Hercule Poirot mystery, my favorite of all her detectives. Captain Alfred Hastings narrates the story, and he also is a familiar figure in Christie mysteries, as a confidante and sidekick to Poirot. At the start of this novel, he is recently returned to England, invalided from battle and home to recuperate. He happens to run into John Cavendish, an old friend, and is invited to spend some time at the Cavendish country home, Styles Court.

When Hastings arrives, he quickly realizes that Styles Court in not a peaceful place. Emily Cavendish, the matriarch of the family and wealthy widow who owns the whole estate, has recently married a much younger man. The rest of the family greatly dislikes Alfred Inglethorp, the new husband. John and his brother, Lawrence, are Emily's stepsons. Nonetheless, she has the power to determine how the money will be distributed at her death, even if it was the will of John's father that John as his eldest son would inherit the estate upon his stepmother's death. Emily changes her will on a regular basis; currently, her will ensures that the money will go to the new husband, Alfred. Clearly, the tension is high in the family. To make matters worse, Emily's friend Evelyn Howard is also staying with the family, and she detests Alfred and regularly has altercations with him.

The mystery kicks in when the household is awakened in the middle of the night, hearing sounds of struggle in Emily Cavendish's room. They rush to her aid, but the door is locked. By the time they break in to the room, they find Emily alone but in dire straights. At first, she seems to be recuperating, but another attack seizes her while they are there. The doctor declares that she is dying. He explains it away as natural causes, but Hastings suspects poison, as does the doctor. Hastings asks John for his permission to contact an old friend of his, Hercule Poirot. While the family is divided as to whether a detective is even needed, John agrees, and Poirot soon arrives on the scene.

Working with his usual brilliant and meticulous care, Poirot begins uncovering the secrets of the household. The number of people staying at the house means that the suspect count is high. Christie clearly describes the clues, and Poirot's attention to them, but doesn't explain their meaning until the great reveal at the end. As this is Poirot's first appearance in print, the story makes a great point of the first impression he makes on people, of a rather foolish and foppish foreigner, in contrast with his incredible mind and deft skill at unraveling mysteries. The solution to this particular puzzler is delightful, twisting the reader's expectations around and around again, and will delight mystery lovers.

Truly, Agatha Christie is the Grand Dame of mysteries, and this book is a wonderful place to start. It introduces her most famous detective, it also introduces the familiar figure Captain Hastings, and it is a fantastic mystery that demonstrates Christie's gift for defying expectations. Her stories are generally self-contained, even if they do frequently use the same characters, so it actually is not necessary for someone new to Christie or Hercule Poirot to start with this book. However, it's not a bad idea, because this book is prime Christie, and immensely fun. I recommend people read all the Hercule Poirot mysteries, including The Mysterious Affair at Styles. ( )
  nmhale | Jul 5, 2015 |
As always, Agatha Christies' murder mystery is as brilliantly conceived as they are brilliantly unraveled to the reader. ( )
  bbbart | May 30, 2015 |
I had completely forgotten that I'd checked out the Recorded Books audio edition a little over seven months ago when I checked it out again. In fact, I couldn't remember a thing. I feel chagrined that I didn't figure out many of the clues again. That's okay -- Hastings is such an oblivious twit (loved it when he said he didn't consider himself dense), that he made me feel better about my own failures.

Good thing for the case that the villain hadn't sense enough to eat one of the clues. One puzzle that wasn't answered at all is how Hastings managed to be as active as he was. After all, in the third paragraph he informs the readers that he was on a month's sick leave after spending months in a convalescent home. True, he doesn't state why he was invalided home from the [World War I] front, so it could have been disease rather than a wound, but all that walking, helping to break down a locked door, etc.??

Not bad, but I still prefer Miss Marple to Hercule Poirot. I'm not happy with the fact that one of Poirot's actions caused unnecessary public expense.

Notes:

In British English, a 'chemist' can be what we call a 'pharmacist' in the USA.

When Poirot states he will hang [the killer] as high as Haman, that is a reference to the villain of the Biblical Book of Esther. That was a height of 50 cubits, which would be nearly 74 feet / 22.5 meters (almost 86 feet / 26.175 meters if the Royal Egyptian cubit was meant), so that's pretty high. ( )
  JalenV | May 5, 2015 |
Hastings is an idiot.

Other than that, this was a pretty good book! ( )
  jrsearcher | Feb 12, 2015 |
Firſt Poirot ſtory. ( )
  leandrod | Feb 10, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (114 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
Suchet, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Symons, JulianForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodman, JeffNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

References to this work on external resources.

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0646418432, Paperback)

The heiress of Styles has been murdered, dying in agony from strychnine slipped into her coffee. And there are plenty who would gain from her death: the financially strapped stepson, the gold digging younger husband, and an embittered daughter-in-law.

Agatha Christie's eccentric and hugely popular detective, Hercule Poirot, was introduced to the world in this book, which launched her career as the most famous and best loved of all mystery writers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:05 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Audible.com

8 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102715, 1400109191

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