The Mysterious Affair at Styles

stylesby Agatha Christie
Mystery
3 of 5 stars
Debut novel: October, 1920

I went through a huge Agatha Christie phase when I was around fifteen, and I decided to revisit her first book as my classic read this month. This was fun! What I found most intriguing was the sparse, simple narrative that disguised such an intricate plot. I expected it to sound complicated as part of the misdirection, but I should have known better. Christie didn’t need to use cheap tricks to fool you–she just leads you through a maze of clues and red herrings, teasingly coy the entire time.

Hercule Poirot, her fastidious little Belgian detective, enters as an older man, his past exploits preceding him via his friend Hastings, our narrator. Hastings is visiting his friend John in the country, and the small group of family and staff is a bit tense from the remarriage of John’s mother to a much younger man. Everyone suspects he’s a gold-digger–so when Emily Inglethorp is murdered one night, it’s an open-and-shut case. But Hastings mentions it to Poirot, and Poirot reveals nothing is as it seems.

It’s a traditional format–the introduction to the people staying at the house, the crime, the investigation, the suspicions, the reveal–and it’s a fun read for the most part. Bits of it get repetitive, but that might have been Christie attempting to play fair with her readers. Even knowing her reputation–even on my guard against the false trails–I failed to guess the murderer (though I did figure out some side twists). I recommend this for anyone wanting a brain teaser or a dip into a wide variety of murder mysteries!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Mysterious Affair at Styles is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – One of his longer stories featuring the world-famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson. They investigate a family in the English countryside convinced they are cursed and haunted by a giant ghostly dog.
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – The start of a sharp, funny, dark series featuring the curmudgeon detective Cormoran Strike and his charming (if a bit naive) assistant Robin. They investigate a high-profile celebrity murder together. An excellent throwback to noir detective TV.
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – The thriller that took the country by storm a few years ago. Nick’s wife Amy disappears under highly suspicious circumstances. Soon, Nick is charged with her murder, despite his certainty that she isn’t dead.
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – If what you really want is another Christie mystery, this is widely regarded as one of her best. Put ten people with dark secrets on an island and watch them start dying off. Who is the killer?

 

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