mystraffstylesThe Mysterious Affair at Styles

by Agatha Christie

Penguin Books, 1920

(The picture here is from the audiobook cover. It was prettier than the paperback cover.)

I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie’s books over the years but this year I joined an interesting challenge. The challenge is to read every single one of her novels in order of their publication. So I am going back to the beginning and starting with her first book. 

Summary: The story is set in England, specifically Styles Court, sometime during the first world war. The book is narrated by Captain Hastings who is back in England on a medical leave. He is invited by his old friend, John Cavendish, to spend time convalescing at Styles Court. Within weeks of Hasting’s arrival, John’s stepmother, Emily Inglethorpe is dead, obviously poisoned with strychnine. All this occurs while she is in her bedroom with all the doors locked from the inside. There are plenty of suspects and plenty of clues. Fortunately, Captain Hasting’s old friend, Hercule Poirot, is staying nearby and is willing to assist in solving this mystery.  

My Evaluation: For me, good, fun books introduce me to new people. In this book we meet two who will be back in future books. In addition to the narrator, Captain Hastings, Hercule Poirot is the obvious star of this book. He is intelligent, clever, extremely observant, a thinking-man’s thinker and more.

“I looked at the extraordinary little man, divided between annoyance and amusement. He was so tremendously sure of himself.”

Almost everyone is a suspect in the book. And, according to Mr. Poirot, that is the way we must approach solving this mystery.

“Still you are right in one thing. It is always wiser to suspect everybody until you can prove logically, and to your own satisfaction, that they are innocent.”

But for me, it was all the clues that had me confused. There is the coffee cup, the coco, the scrap of paper in the fireplace, an over-heard conversation, some green cloth in the door lock, a fake beard. It goes on. I had my own hunch about who did it but I couldn’t figure out how they did it with all the clues. By the end I was right in my guess of who, but was thrown off by how they did it.

All of it – the many suspects and all the clues – made for an entertaining read. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good diversion from heavier books.

So, this is number one in my quest to read all of Agatha Christie’s novels. One down/only 79 to go!  Not all in one year – it’s an on-going challenge. If you’d like to learn more about the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge go here. This book also fits my 1920’s decade for the Decades Challenge.

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