Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie

Cover of The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Title: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication date: September 3, 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-00-711927-1
Length: 297 pages
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased for Book Club
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Recently, there had been some strange goings on at Styles St Mary. Evelyn, constant companion to old Mrs Inglethorp, had stormed out of the house muttering something about ‘a lot of sharks’. And with her, something indefinable had gone from the atmosphere. Her presence had spelt security; now the air seemed rife with suspicion and impending evil A shattered coffee cup, a splash of candle grease, a bed of begonias – all Poirot required to display his now legendary powers of detection…

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is Christie’s very first novel and thus our very first book club read as well. Even though I’ve read more than twenty of Christie’s books so far, I’ve never read them in order of the original publication date, I just picked up whichever book I could find at the time.

Picking up this book my initial expectations were the following: since it was written 30-40 years before her last publications and it was her very first novel, surely there must be some sort of a difference. I’ve read some of her novels which have been written much later than this one so I expected to find The Mysterious Affair at Styles less detailed or slightly more predictable than those books. Here, I was both right and wrong. While you can feel that she was still trying to find her footing, it was already a very detailed and very well plotted book with great twists and turns.

What made this book different from all the other Christie books I’ve read so far was the fact that this one is narrated by Arthur Hastings, Poirot’s friend. At first I found Hastings narrative a bit monotonous and dry so it took me a little while before I got into it and got used to his style. The Hastings – Poirot duo definitely adds a bit of fun to the book, however. Hastings is a bit naive, and absolutely clueless about what’s going on which makes him even more likeable. In a way, he represents us readers: Poirot is the mastermind and Hastings is just like us: he tries to put the puzzle pieces together and figure out who did what and what their motive was – in vain. I also love the fact that Poirot seems to treat him like his pupil – he tries to explain things to him and teach him how to think logically and methodically – they really are an entertaining pair.

All in all, I think The Mysterious Affair at Styles was a great start to Poirot’s “long and successful career” – it’s definitely much better than what I initially expected and it’s actually one of those stories that left me completely and utterly baffled. Even though I’m usually quite good at predicting who’s the guilty one, I had no clue who the murderer might be here. Another thing I really enjoyed was the fact that Poirot was dealing with a very intelligent criminal here, which always makes things a bit more complicated. Christie really builds up the tension towards the end of the story and believe me, you won’t be able to put it down. Another fantastic page-turner from the Queen of Crime!

Rating:

15 Responses to “Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie”

  1. Roxanne says:

    Cool cover. I’ve alway felt like there were too many characters in her novels to keep track of. Did you find that? Perhaps it’s time for me to have another go at it then …
    Roxanne recently posted..Waiting On WednesdayMy Profile

    • Vicky says:

      Yes, I do feel like that sometimes! But not all of her books are like that. There are books where there are so many characters with pretty similar names and it’s quite difficult to remember them, especially in the beginning.

      Maybe try to read books with less characters? Murder is Easy and A Murder is Announced are two of my favourites and I think they don’t have that many characters. It’s been a while since I read them but I know I really enjoyed them both :)

  2. Great review. It sounds interesting.

    I have read only 2 of Agatha Christie’s books Murder on the Orient Express and Hallowe’en Party but I hope to read more soon because I loved them. I have The Murder of Roger Ackroyd waiting to be read on my shelf. Have you read that?
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    • Vicky says:

      I have! The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is actually one of my favourites – the ending is just brilliant. (It was one of the books where I was able to guess who the murderer might be, haha) You’ll love it. :)

  3. Dalene says:

    Great review! I did love Hasting and Poirot as well. Can’t wait to read the next one.
    Dalene recently posted..Friday Book Blogger Hop (Jun 1)My Profile

    • Vicky says:

      I’m really excited about the next one! I haven’t read any Tommy & Tuppence books yet so I can’t wait to pick it up.

  4. Wendy @ Escape Into Fiction says:

    I hope you don’t mind if I pop in on what I believe is supposed to be a book club discussion. I’ve read this book and almost all the other Poirot books, not to mention other of Agatha Christie’s novels. Poirot is probably my absolute favorite fictional character because he is so complex and his character quirks are so spot on! Dame Agatha truly created an amazing character when she created Poirot (though I have read that she absolutely hated him). You’re right that Hastings perspective could be dry at times, but I really like how well his relationship with Poirot is portrayed, marking the beginning of some amazing case adventures for the two.

    I don’t know if you have had the opportunity to watch the BBC television series (I think there are ten or twelve seasons). But, if you get a chance, check them out, because they really portrayed Poirot and Hastings well in those shows. The best ones were probably with Poirot, Hastings, and Miss Lemon (in my opinion).

    Okay, sorry for the rambling. I really liked your review and wish you the best as you plow through all of her novels. :)
    Wendy @ Escape Into Fiction recently posted.."Waiting on" Wednesday: Before I WakeMy Profile

    • Vicky says:

      Aww, thanks for the comment Wendy! Yes, I do like the BBC series – I prefer the books of course but BBC did a great job with the TV adaptations. David Suchet is just fantastic!

  5. kit says:

    I’ve read quite a few of Christie’s novels, and Poirot is definitely my favourite. I haven’t read this particular one, but I do like the Poirot/Hastings pairing, particularly when Hastings is being so dense most of the time. I am pretty rubbish at working out who the murderer is in Christie’s books, she’s just too good!
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    • Vicky says:

      She is!! Even if you’re on the right track at some point, she’ll no doubt confuse you by the end. Actually, there are certain books where it’s much easier to guess who it might be but this is not one of them. :D

  6. Nice review! Agatha is a genius.

  7. Great review, Vicky. I liked the narration by Hastings. I actually thought he was funny at times.

    I finally got my review posted. It’s a short one because I’m catching up on reviews, but you can check it out here: http://thetruebookaddict.blogspot.com/2012/06/novel-glimpses-8-alices-adventures-in.html
    Michelle @ The True Book Addict recently posted..Novel Glimpses (8)–Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Without Mercy, The Mysterious Affair at StylesMy Profile

  8. Nice :) I love Agatha. I’m listening to one right now actually. It’s called Problem at Pollensa Bay.
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  9. [...] don’t know if you remember but I mentioned in my review of The Mysterious Affair at Styles (the very first Poirot novel) that I found Hastings’s narrative a bit monotonous and dry and [...]

  10. Jaclyn says:

    I loved this book. She is my favourite author. It makes me crave hot chocolate, though! I LOVE reading about what life was like almost a century ago (she wrote the book in 1916). She is brilliant, one of the greatest literary geniuses ever. There are so many reasons to love her books. Her world view, her sense of drama, her sense of humour, her characters. I could go on forever.

    However, I will say that since I examine her books VERY closely (genius has to be rewarded with attention hehe), I’ve noticed that she doesn’t strictly play fair in this novel. At the end of the novel, Poirot says he has suspected someone (who turns out to be the killer) but there are several places throughout the narrative that his words directly contradict this. He is only talking to Hastings, so there is no reason for him to mislead the reader. But I am still in awe of her, and consider this just a point of interest, not as a serious criticism. She can do no wrong in my book (pardon the pun).

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