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 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 July 28, 2003
Dame Agatha Christie introduces Hercule Poirot to the mystery novel loving public in this thriller set in WWI. Poirot and a group of fellow Belgians have resettled in an English village, after displacement from their homeland. Poirot has already retired from Belgian police work, speaking fondly of turn-of-the-century cases with friendly Scotland Yard detectives.
This is a standard issue murder case with the ancient mansion dweller as the victim. She is recently remarried and has also recently broken with a long-time friend and companion. Filling out the list of suspects are two step-sons who would benefit financially from her demise and several house guests, including a young pharmacist and a German spy. Poirot is called in the day of the murder and follows his standard practice. He sends cryptic messages to suspects to gauge their response, tracks suspects across the county, and even does primitive forensic studies. The book is written by a resident wounded veteran who was a long-time friend of both Poirot and the family at Styles.
There are two features here to recommend this book. The first is the mystery within the mystery structure in which the obvious suspect ultimately turns out to be the guilty one, albeit with an unexpected accomplice. The second is the deliberately researched poisoning mechanism employed. Dame Christie received a positive review in the 1920's from a leading British pharmacology journal for her efforts. For those who enjoy the complex, this book is wracked with it. It is nearly impossible to keep track of all the characters and their myriad interactions with Poirot and each other. Reading it the second time brought out a lot of foreshadowing and important facts, dropped into the text as minor details.
on December 14, 2002
I have always enjoyed mystery books and surprisingly I liked this one as well. In the begining a man named Captain Hastings comes home from war. He meets an old friend named John Cavendish. John offers for Hastings to stay with him and Hastings delightedly accepts. Shortly after his arrival, John's mother, Emily Inglethorpe, is murdered by poison. Hastings hires a detective named Hercule Poirot. Throughout the book you wonder who the murderer is. There are a number of different suspects who all seem to have a pretty good motivation for killing her. There is John Cavendish, Mary Cavendish, Lawrence Cavendish, Alfred Inglethorpe, Evelyn Howard, Dorcas, and Cynthia Murdoch. I was in suspense through the entire book. The only thing that seemed to frustrate me about the mystery was the way Agatha Cristie would give you many clues leading you in the complete opposite direction everytime. Although, that is exactly what makes it a great mystery novel. I would highly recomend this novel. It will surely keep you on your toes!
on September 17, 2002
Captain Hastings is invalided home from World War I, and while on leave comes across an old friend, John Cavendish. When Hastings is offered to stay for the duration of his leave with the Cavendish family, he immediately takes up the offer. Arriving at Styles Court, instead of having a relaxing and pleasant stay, he gets involved in a murder! The victim is Emily Inglethorpe, mother of John Cavendish, murder by poison. It is then that Hastings brings in the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, a refugee from his homeland. Will the detective be able to sort through the clues, use method and order, and exercise his 'little grey cells' to bring the killer to justice?
This is truly one of Agatha Christie's best Poirot novel! My father, my sister, and I are the proud owners of almost all of Agatha Christie's mysteries. All of her books are just so enjoyable to read that the best atmosphere I recommend you read them in is when you're either curled up on the couch or relaxing on your bed. Very hard to put down, I can almost guarantee you won't take as long as a week to finish one book!
The story and plot of "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" is ingenious, with lots of clues, happenings, twists and turns which never seem to come together or make sense! Agatha Christie has that writing style where she seems to be giving you everything, all of the hints and clues, but at the same keeping you in the dark, guessing and suspecting but never actually knowing. Then she gives you a finale which just leaves thinking, "Of course! Absolutely brilliant! That's how it happened!"
The character of Hercule Poirot has a personality all of his own. Yes, we have our Sherlock Holmes and other well known and well liked characters, but Hercule Poirot himself is a remarkable character. With his system of method and order, gathering all of the clues even the most significant ones, then putting them all together with the help of a little imagination, he is quite brilliant. Then there's Captain Hastings, so incredibly gullible that though at times you'd like to ask him whether he's keeping up with everything, you can't help but like him.
Then there's the array of other characters for this mystery who all seem to have a motive for murder: John Cavendish, Mary Cavendish, Alfred Inglethorpe, Evelyn Howard, Lawrence Cavendish, Cynthia Murdoch, Dorcas, and more. Everyone is under suspicion, who do you think is the murderer?
I recommend all of Hercule Poirot's mysteries. And besides Poirot, Agatha Christie has written stories on numerous other heroes and heroines, Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence, Parker Pine, and others. Other mystery writers whose work I enjoy reading are Lillian Jackson Braun and Dick Francis.
Also, don't miss out on any of the TV series and movies of Hercule Poirot. Starring as Poirot is David Suchet, perfect in his role! Plus, the movie, "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" is on DVD!