The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the first Hercule Poirot mystery by Agatha Christie, and it was an auspicious debut. I’m a huge Christie fan by way of PBS Mystery!, but had never read many of her books (odd for someone who does as much reading as I do). This book has started me down the Christie path, and I’m glad there are plenty of stories to catch up on.
This one is a classic locked-room mystery. Hastings runs into an old friend, and is invited down to Styles St. Mary for a visit. Hastings had been there before when he was younger, but had lost touch with the family. The matriarch of the family, stepmother to the sons of the house, has recently remarried – and the family is not happy. The cast of characters is introduced, with all the potential suspects, and mater is poisoned. Hmmm. Who could’ve dunnit? One of the unhappy sons, the unhappy daughter-in-law, the creepy new husband, the innocent looking family helper? Hmmmm.
And who might be in Styles St. Mary, friends with Hastings, and a Belgian refugee? Hmmm. Yup, it’s Hercule Poirot (yes, he’s a Belgie, not a Frenchie). They follow a few red herrings, jump to a few wrong conclusions, and of course use the tiny grey cells. Poirot of course figures it out, and calls everyone together at the end to announce whodunnit.
Agatha Christie’s writing makes what is probably a very difficult task seem effortless. I read somewhere that she wrote this first book on a dare. I’m glad she didn’t pick truth.