Title: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Author: Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot
Publisher: John Lane
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Detective Fiction
First Publication: 1920
Major Characters: Hercule Poirot, Arthur Hastings, John Cavendish, Emily Inglethorp, Alfred Inglethorp, Cynthia Murdoch, Mary Cavendish, Evie Howard, Lawrence Cavendish, Inspector Japp
Setting Place: Essex, England
Narration: First person from Hastings Point of View
Book Summary: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Emily Inglethorp, the rich mistress of Styles Court manor, is found dead. Poisoned. Hercule Poirot is called upon to investigate the death by Captain Hastings, who is a guest at the manor. Though a retired detective, Poirot steps in to unravel the truth.
Who could have killed her? And why?
The husband who would inherit the wealth or her stepson?
There are others who raise suspicion too.
What do the clues add up to?
A broken coffee cup, splash of candle grease and the name of the husband on Emily’s dying lips.
There is one way to find out and the master sleuth Poirot the Belgian detective who features in thirty-nine Agatha Christie mysteries is sure to find out.
Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
The Mysterious Affair at Styles is Agatha Christie’s debut novel, published in 1920, and the first featuring her detective, Hercule Poirot. By any standards it is an assured and well written debut novel and, considering the period it was written, it is also remarkably undated. Apparently, Agatha Christie was challenged by her sister to write a detective story, for which I am eternally grateful, as this was her offering. Like one of the characters in this novel, Agatha worked in the dispensary of a local hospital and gained a knowledge of poisons, which she used in her novel. She also saw the arrival of Belgian refugees during WWI, which gave her detective his background.
“Instinct is a marvelous thing. It can neither be explained nor ignored.”
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie is set in an English manor house, Styles, owned by the Cavendish family. Hastings, our narrator, was invited by John Cavendish to stay with the family in their regal abode when the unexpected and inexplicable murder of Emily Cavendish (or the more recently referred to, Emily Inglethorpe) occurs. John lives at Styles with his wife, Mary, his brother, Lawrence, his step-mother, her companion, Evie Howard and his mother’s ward, Cynthia. Recently, there has been another addition to the household too, as his step-mother has remarried the much younger Alfred Inglethorp. Alfred has caused an air of constraint to the household and, when Mrs Inglethorp is murdered, he is the natural suspect.
“An appreciative listener is always stimulating.”
Nearby, Hercule Poirot has been staying in a house provided by Mrs Inglethorp, along with other Belgian refugees. Hastings knew Poirot well and, when the murder occurs, he asks him to investigate. The murder scene, a locked bedroom, baffles detectives and family alike, and it is up to the famous Belgian detective to solve this unsolvable puzzle.
“Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend.”
The Mysterious Affair at Styles contains many of the characters that Hercule Poirot fans will come to know well – not only Hastings but Detective Inspector James Japp of Scotland Yard. Interestingly, this edition also includes the original, unpublished ending, in which Poirot explains the crime in the courtroom – before this was re-written at the request of the publisher to take place in the drawing room setting that lovers of Golden Age mysteries are very familiar with. A wonderful beginning to my one of the favourite detective series of all time after Sherlock Holmes.