Title: The Mysterious Affairs At Styles
Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: John Lane
Published On: October 1920
The murderer is known but his guilt can’t be proved.
What is the book about?
Arthur Hastings, a soldier from the western front is invited as a guest to stay at the Styles Manor on his sick leave. He enjoys his vacation at Essex with Mr Cavendish and his family. But one fine morning at styles the whole household wakes to the discovery that the benefactress Mrs.Emily Inglethrop has died. A refugee of the Great War, as well as a good friend of Hastings, Hercule Poirot is called upon to investigate the case.
Poirot puts his sleuthing skills to work. Suspects are plentiful, including the victim’s much younger husband, her resentful stepsons, her long time hired companion, a young family friend working as a nurse, and a London specialist on poisons who just happens to be visiting the nearby village. Every one of them is engaged in some or other clandestine activities. And above all, there is one missing link. The whole story is a web of confusions and the murderer misguides everyone.
What do the clues add up to? A broken coffee cup, a splash of candle grease and the name of the husband on dying Emily’s lips.
As this is the debut novel of Agatha Christie, I do not find it as intriguing as her other novels. Nevertheless, the story was unique and it introduced the master sleuth, Hercule Poirot, to her readers for the first time. No one apart from her can create such a puzzle that you are constantly trying to guess what’s going on?
Christie was all about the calm approach to solving a murder. She didn’t try to end each chapter with a big WOW and heart-wrenching scare tactic. It’s a simple evolution of a timeline, collections of clues, conversations with people and then you start to see the puzzle come together. But at the last minute, you get the unexpected twist. As usual, this book of Agatha Christie was unputdownable as well.
Moreover, one of the interesting facts is that this book was written 100 years ago. So this October it’s the 100th anniversary of the book.
As it is the first book of Agatha Christie the writing style is simple and fast-paced unlike other classics of the contemporary writers. It keeps the readers quite engaged. Every character creates an impact on the reader’s mind as it is described so minutely. The conclusion drawn from the incidents attract our attention. It even had a French touch in it.
The Mysterious Affairs At Styles is everything a murder mystery should be. There were enthralling characters (which, incidentally, are nicely fleshed-out), a page-turning plot, plenty of clues red-herrings and best of all, it kept me guessing right till the end. The narration also worked well – by having Hastings as the narrator, we don’t get to see what’s inside Poirot’s head? So we can continue to form our own conclusions right to the end.
I also liked how quaint this was. As a reader of more modern thrillers such as James Patterson, Lee Child and David Baldacci, it was nice to realise that there isn’t always a requirement for violence, blood and guts to have a good plot.
Some of my favourite lines from this book are –
Instinct is a marvellous thing. It can neither be explained nor ignored.
You gave too much rein to your imagination. Imagination is a good servant and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely.
Everything must be taken into account. If the fact will not fit the theory—let the theory go.
Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend.
When you find that people are not telling you the truth—look out!
I did not deceive you, mon ami. At most, I permitted you to deceive yourself.
Imagination is a good servant and a bad master.
Real evidence is usually vague and unsatisfactory. It has to be examined—sifted. But here the whole thing is cut and dried. No, my friend, this evidence has been very cleverly manufactured—so cleverly that it has defeated its own ends.
Who should read The Mysterious Affairs At Styles?
One who is a loves murder mystery can grab this book and will love it too. It is beginner-friendly but it contains some French phrases and one needs to be acquainted with it to have an effortless read.
Who Is The Author?
Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE was an English writer known for her sixty-six detective novels and fourteen short story collections. The Mysterious Affairs At Styles and Murder in Mesopotamia are among a few of her famous works. Guinness World Records lists Christie as the best-selling fiction writer of all time, her novels having sold over two billion copies. She is known as the Queen of Murder Mystery.