The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) – Agatha Christie

It’s been decades, literally decades, since I read an Agatha Christie novel, in fact I remember where I was, and though I don’t recall the title, I know that it was a Poirot mystery. Something tells me a teacher may have suggested them to me, or perhaps the school librarian.

I was curious what I would think of them know, reading them afresh, and if I would be able to resolve the mystery before the story’s hero, in this case, once again Poirot. In fact, it’s his first appearance, and it’s Christie’s first novel.

Told in the first person through the eyes of Poirot’s friend, Hastings, the tale is involving and wonderfully convoluted, filled with red herrings, and countless suspects.

Hastings has returned from the front for a convalescence and is staying at Styles, a manor seen over by his friend’s family, their recently remarried stepmother, her new husband, and a number of servants.

When the mater, Mrs. Ingelthorp, is murdered, poisoned, Hastings is delighted to find that Poirot is in the nearby village. It seems Ingelthorp oversaw the rescue of some Belgian refugees, rehousing them in the village, and among them, the renowned detective, Hercule Poirot.

At Poirot’s side, Hasting, who fancies himself a bit of a detective, attempts to put the clues together, something Poirot does with ease. In fact, despite the red herrings, and the realisation that everyone has a motive, all of the clues to resolve the mystery are there from the beginning.

In fact as I came to the end of the novel as Poirot lays everything out, I was able to see how everything clicked, and how everything was planted from the get-go.

My suspicions were wrong, though the person I did suspect did come up as a prime suspect, and once Poirot lays everything out it’s impossible to see it any other way.

Christie had a rare gift, and the story came to life brilliantly in my mind’s eye, something it didn’t do when I was a kid. It played out in my head (and looked a little but like Masterpiece Theatre) and Christie’s words evoked an entire visual world for me – I hope that continues.

I can’t wait to see what other stories and characters lay ahead for me as I delve into some of the most famous, and classic mysteries put to paper by one of the greatest mystery authors of all time – Agatha Christie.

Next time I will be exploring The Secret Advesary!

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