on May 11, 2004
Hercule Poirot, the little Belgian detective has returned to Styles Court, the scene of his first English adventure in crime for his final case. But now the handsome country mansion is a guest house and Poirot, old and arthritic, is one of the guests. He invites Captain Hastings to join him and then reveals the reason for his request. Poirot informs his old friend that they are "here to hunt down a murderer." And to find out who is the killer, first a murder has to be committed. But who will be the victim?
Although Curtain was written during the London blitz in the early years of World War II, it never got published until 1975. The reason being that in this book the famous detective Hercule Poirot concludes his wonderful career. Agatha Christie wanted Poirot not to survive his creator. Therefore she finished his career by writing Curtain and locked the manuscript in a bank vault. Dame Agatha Christie died on January 12, 1976, one year later than her most famous creation.
Curtain is a vintage Christie. The plot is ingenious and seems totally committed to putting the reader on the wrong track. Although the actual motive and operation procedure of the murderer are quite dubious and unbelievable¸ there is only one word that can truly describe the denouement: sublime. In a few lines Poirot explains how the unsuspicious reader probably missed five smartly interwoven clues. When you read these lines you can only but hit yourself on the head for being so short-sighted, exactly the same feeling reflected by Captain Hastings at the end of the book.
Lieutenant Arthur Hastings is delighted at the opportunity to stay at Styles, the home of his old school friend John Cavendish. Things have changed since Hastings’s last visit. John is now married and his mother Emily has remarried Alfred Inglethorp, a man her sons despise. When Emily is poisoned, the sons believe that Inglethorp did it, but all is not what it seems, as secrets and hidden agendas abound at the country estate.
This was Agatha Christie’s first published Hercule Poirot novel and it’s a great story. As a master plotter, Christie once again had me guessing the killer’s identity to the end. The trademark plot twists, family dysfunction, and prejudice against the Belgian Poirot, are all there in this classic tale of betrayal and greed.
Agatha Christie was one of my writing heroes, and it’s a tribute to her skill that her books are still widely enjoyed today. They might hold even greater appeal for some readers, as there’s no hi-tech gadgetry used to help solve crimes. Some of the racist remarks made me cringe, but it was a reflection of the values and attitudes in the 1920’s. One of the many great things I like about Christie’s books is that they don’t need to be read consecutively. You can jump in any time, but if you must read a series from the beginning, then The Mysterious Affair at Styles is a terrific place to start. It’s classic Christie.
on May 17, 2014
1. What stands out most to me about this book was Poirot's character. I love how much comic relief and humour he brings to the plot. Without his quirky and unique personality, I probably wouldn't have continued reading the book.
2. For a murder mystery novel, I thought it lacked the suspense and anticipation that's characteristic of most books in this genre. The plot was very fast-paced which hardly gave me any time to figure out what was going on before conclusions were already drawn and people were suspected.
3. To be honest, I was very unsure of how I would like this book because it started off very rocky. The storyline is mostly plot driven; Christie doesn't spend much time on character development which explains why the book is fairly short.
4. Halfway through the book, the whole mystery surrounding the murder got way too confusing; it felt like everyone was a suspect at one point and kind of ruined the thrill of searching for the killer.
5. You might be wondering why I gave it 4 stars if there were so many things I didn't like, what I LOVED about this book was all the twists and surprising discoveries that were written in the plot. Even though there wasn't much suspense as I thought there was, I was motivated enough to keep reading because it will haunt me forever if I never found out who did it.
6. I'm really happy that in the end everything was explained for and all loose ends were neatly tied up. (It always gets on my nerves when an author never explains for the smallest detail)
on September 26, 2012
I've loved mystery all my life and experience at last, the great Agatha Christie! No repertoire is complete without the genre's queen, who earns her title unequivocally. I'm breathless! I record three-stars to allow for more extraordinary settings, surely contained in other titles. I've begun with Agatha's inaugural release "The Mysterious Affair At Styles", in 1920! Told by 'Mr. Hastings', he visits a friend's mansion. Residing with 'John Cavendish' are his wife, brother, stepmother 'Emily', her new husband, and the adult daughter of her friend.
There was no attachment to the cast, likely because it's large and we don't know them until the end. By the time we feel their kind personalities and an urge to acquaint them further; the tale concludes. There's much to rave about: the timelessness of a group reacting to tragedy, bewildered about its cause. The distinct dialogue and customs, such as tea time, could be attributed to England or their social class.
The author's eloquence is second to none, downgrading words for no one and explaining whatever is required, with a literary precision worthy of framing on a wall. The plotting astounds me. That it is humanly possible to contrive the scope of clues found in these pages, match them with such an array of scenarios, and transfer suspicion seamlessly to each member of the household; I can only attribute to a genius mind. I'm convinced the adjective is not reserved for scientists in the least. Upon reading the conclusion alone, with every detail revealed; I truly felt my brain cells buzzing as if from rigorous exercise!
I've heard of `Hercule Poirot' for years but had an image similar to `Sherlock Holmes': prim and businesslike. I like him more than I expected! A keen professional truly can go hand in hand with humour and warmth.
on June 30, 2004
I've always preferred Agatha Christie's early mysteries to those published late in her life. Somehow the most recent works feel cranked out rather than thought out.
"Styles" reeks with atmosphere, and the characters, stock though they may be, are quite good. The English country house, locked room murder tale has been overdone a bit (I eschew hyperbole), but it seems fresh-born here. Perhaps it is because this is the author's first-born mystery novel and she cared about what she was doing.
Other reviewers have described the actual plot, so I will not repeat that. Suffice it to say that the plot works, and the surprises are indeed unexpected. The logic and denouement are fair to the reader. The plot doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to..."work," for lack of a better verb. Mystery readers, often without knowing it, read this genre not for the ingenious plot but for the feel of place and for the characters. If feel and characters are your thing, you can't go wrong with this one.
on January 26, 2004
I read Poirot books for thing and one thing alone: the rapport he has with Captain Arthur Hastings. Sure, the plots are brilliant, and it's fun to try and match wits with the bad guys, but I've never seen the point in even attemoting to keep up with the self-described "greatest brain in Europe." It's better to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
But yeah, the repartee and really, deep friendship between Hastings and Poirot has, in my mind, always been a subtle, minimalist delight. It takes back seat to the detection, which may lead some to criticize the characters as shallow, but that never was really the point...
In 'Curtain,' at least, this relationship is highlighted beautifully. This story is darker in tone than other Christie novels-- though really the Poirot series on the whole is not as lighthearted as some seem to remember it. Hastings and Poirot are still funny, but there's also real emotion, and a shocking, twisted plot with an ending that rips your heart out.
'Curtain' was a depressing end to the series, certainly...but it was, in its own way, realistic. How can we honestly expect Hercule Poirot to be unaffected by all he has seen and the life he has led?
on January 23, 2004
This is the first Christie and the first Hercule Poirot novel. The action opens with Hastings describing his first adventure with Poirot. They become involved in solving a death in a locked room with the most obvious suspect being the husband. Many twists and turns later Poirot prevails and justice is served.
Hastings circumstances (invalid army officer alone in the world) are very like Dr. Watson. The relationship between Hastings and Poirot is similiar to Watson and Holmes in that Hastings is the bumbler, always leaping to the wrong conclusion while Poirot, like Holmes, drops little hints but by in large keeps his companion in the dark until the last minute.
Christie began her pattern here of going against established mystery conventions (most obvious suspect being innocent) while playing fair, (all clues are fairly laid out for the reader). The trademark Christie twists and turns are here as well.
This novel was originally published in 1920 and many of the details show its age. There are references to things that the modern reader will not be familiar and some comments are absolutely not politically correct but these do not detract from the story and in fact enforce the WWI English country house setting.
This is a 'must read' for any Christie fan, and highly recommended for any fan of 'cozy' mysteries.
on December 9, 2003
Dame Agatha's career as a writer began on a dare: a taunt by her older sister Madge to write a detective story in which no one would be able to guess the murderer's identity. "The Mysterious Affair At Styles" was written in 1915 (when she was only 24-years-old) and without a doubt Christie won the bet. It took five more years before it was accepted and released for publication. But no matter, this is the first in a long line of masterpieces from her pen, and the first to feature one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time: Hercule Poirot (pronounced Pwah-row). The story itself centers upon the Ingelthorpe family, and the various sinister undercurrents which culminates in the poisoning murder of its matriarch. Luckily M. Poirot is situated in a nearby village as a refugee from the war. He sifts through the mounting evidence and motives, hones in on the truth about the tragedy at Styles, and prevents an innocent man from being hanged (HARSH LANGUAGE: about 5 words, VIOLENCE: 1 scene, SEXUAL REFERENCES: none).
on September 24, 2003
Thirty-year old Mrs Agatha Christie turned a nice little profit with this, her first book, in 1920. It introduced Hercule Poirot. Wisely, she gave him many flamboyant, eccentric characteristics to leaven the depiction of detection work, but unwisely she created a character of advanced age that she subsequently needed to preserve for a further fifty years.
What became the regular Christie recipe for a whodunit is found here. Perhaps there is a tad more reliance on the dispensing of medicines, reflecting the author's occupation during World War One. A formula that she later discarded was the use of a narrator - Hastings - who presents one of the "cases" of his friend Poirot. 1920 and the publication of this book marked the opening of the "Golden Age of Detective Fiction". Expect that there are plenty of servants, plenty of drinks at bedtime, much making and re-making of wills, and characters - including Poirot - who walk everywhere.
This rates highly in the Christie collection for classic charm, readability and ingenuity. Few of her books from the 1920s excel it.
on August 2, 2003
Christie herself regarded the character with a mixture of bemused affection and frustration, and frequently expressed the wish that she had never created such an eccentric character--but of all her creations, Hercule Poroit was the most popular with the reading public. Indeed, such was the public's devotion that in the 1940s or 1950s Christie became concerned that others might attempt to "franchise" the character after her death, resurrecting him for other novels for the sake of a fast buck.
Determined to thwart this, in the 1950s Christie wrote CURTAIN. Once more Poroit and his faithful Captain Hastings return to the great country estate of Styles, the location of Christie's first novel and Poroit's first appearance, THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES. But time has wrought many changes. Styles has been sold and converted to a second-rate guest house. Captain Hastings is in mourning for his much loved and recently deceased wife. And Poroit... is dying.
But although his body is failing, Poroit's little gray cells remain as sharp as ever, and he is once more on the trail of a killer--indeed, the perfect killer, one completely unlike any he has pursued before. A killer who now resides at Styles and who is coiled to strike again. But can Poroit defeat this killer before mortality rings down the curtian on his fabulous career? Stylistically, CURTAIN belongs to the great Christie novels of the 1940s and 1950s, and in terms of plot it is easily among her most remarkable achievements, easily ranking with such celebrated twists as those found in THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD and A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED. The writing is strong, the characterizations are vivid, and when the solution unfolds one is left with a startled gasp.
I do not recommend CURTAIN for those new to Christie's novels. It is indeed Hercule Poroit's last case, and it really should be read as such. But for those who have followed Poroit through a number of adventures, it is a truly satisfying conclusion to a long and brilliant career.
--GFT (Amazon.com Reviewer)--