The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie was her debut novel and my first by the author. As I researched about it after reading it, I got to know that it was written as a bet between her and her friends, who challenged her to write a who-dunnit. Needless to say, her friends got it in their face. Since the book is a classic, I wouldn’t review it. Whatever I’ll write, I’ll try to stay as far away from reviewing it, because classics are not meant for that.
Mr. Hastings, the narrator, tells us about the affair at the styles, the death of one Mrs. Emily Inglethorp, wife of Alfred Inglethorp. Her stepson, John Cavendish is his old friend, and therefore, his deep involvement in the affair. It had so happened that Hastings meets John by chance, and the latter invites him to stay at their house. Soon after, Mrs. Inglethrop is found dead, seemingly poisoned as declared by Dr. Bauerstein, the mysterious friend of Mary Cavendish, John’s wife. Though eager to avoid an inquest and publicity, John agrees to let Hercule Poirot, Hasting’s friend, take a look into the matter. You see, Poirot is a retired Belgium detective of the yard. Everyone comes under scrutiny including Lawrence Cavendish, the younger step-son, Cynthia, Emily’s niece whom she was taking care of, and of course, Evelyn Howard, Emily’s closest aid and confidante. With the murderer at large in the house, it is now up to Poirot to catch him and bring the old lady justice.
Who doesn’t like a good old murder mystery, eh? I know I do. Since the starting days of my reading journey, I have been a fan of mystery, especially ones which take on Sherlock Holmes’ style. AC her does style her hero, Hercule Poirot on the hero of ACD novels and I couldn’t be happier. There are differences between the two detectives, yes, some stark and some subtle. Unlike Holmes, Poirot isn’t a sociopath, which thankfully for me, is good. Another like Holmes wouldn’t have been good for my literary fandom and choosing one between them would have been blasphemy. So, Poirot. He is presented as a short egg-headed Belgium detective who keeps throwing his charm. And language around to get to the bottom of the mystery. While he is a level headed experienced man, his wannabe detective friend Hastings is impulsive. It is fun to read their banter and Poirot’s mild insults directed towards him. Much like Holmes and Watson, Poirot and Hastings are a team. Maybe that was the way murder mysteries were written then, a hero and his sidekick, who wasn’t as clever as the hero but had his own benefits. This Poirot, I’d love to watch a series on him, much like my dear Holmes. Who do you think would be suited for the role?
Anyway, back to the book. The story is short, not too short to qualify as a short story, and not too long to be a proper novel. I’d keep it in the novella category. The characters are limited so it’s easy to keep tracks of who said what and did what which is quite essential when reading a murder mystery. The story keeps unfolding chapter by chapter, each revealing a new fact and pointing in a different direction. I kept guessing the murderer till the end, and even then I missed. LOL. The investigation is tedious. Having read and seen a lot of similar mysteries, I did keep a note of all the things that seemed irrelevant at the time it was written but which came back later. In mysteries like these, the author always has the upper hand despite the reader is one of those heads which can equally be eligible for the hero’s role, because the author tends to keep back a lot of stuff which is usually revealed only at the end. So, when guessing the criminal here, the reader may be right, but since the facts aren’t available to them, they wouldn’t be able to explain the reason behind their choice. Not that I guessed it any right 😉
Recommended to all the mystery fans, you wouldn’t be disappointed in delving into the vast world of crime built by the Queen of Crimes herself.