Here I am with another review of Agatha Christie’s book. This is the 16th Agatha Christie book I have read this year. As much as I criticize or get greatly disappointed with her works, my temptation to pick another book of hers never ceases. Probably it’s going to continue till I finish reading all her works. Having read many of her Poirot works and being a huge fan of her Belgian detective, I decided it’s time go in series now and hence started the first book in the Poirot collection – The Mysterious Affairs at Styles. My expectations were as ever huge especially with this being the first book. I believe the first work always has the best efforts. In a way, I wasn’t wrong. The book had all the elements of a perfect Poirot mystery. This book also marked the beginning of the Poirot-Hastings partnership.
This story unfolds in a place called Styles where Captain Hastings visits his friend John Cavendish after the former gets relieved from duty after being injured in the war. Mrs Inglethorp is the matriarch of the family and the step mother of John and his younger brother Lawrence. When Mrs Inglethorp gets married again, the benefactor of the will changes from John to her husband Alfred. Mrs Inglethorp also mentors a young nurse Cynthia who also lives with the family in the house. The entire family holds a grudge against Alfred as they believe his only motive towards marrying Mrs Inglethorp is for her money. When this is pointed out by Miss Howard, Mrs Inglethorp’s friend, they fall out. Miss Howard leaves not before warning Hastings to take care of Mrs Inglethorp and protect her. Hastings is very intrigued by the overall happenings and the behaviour of the family members. He holds a soft corner for both Mary and Cynthia. One night, the family after hearing noises from Mrs Inglethorp’s room, rushes to find her dead. Hastings and the rest of the family is sure it is Alfred as he is the only one missing in the house during the time of death. Coincidentally, Poirot is at Styles and is requested by Hastings to investigate the case.
As it is evident from the cover of the book, the case involves poisoning. Somewhere all the medical terms and medical conditions causes sufficient confusion while reading. Of course when we compare it to today’s long complicated murder mysteries, it’s nothing. Also- Poirot is at his irritating best. Here is a man who just doesn’t trust anyone and he ably justifies why too. Even if he knows the truth from the beginning, he wants to make a dramatic speech at the end. At the same time, I wouldn’t deny. I absolutely love the dramatic revelation, the Poirot Speech, at the end of every book but I feel for poor Hastings. He puts his heart and soul to solve the case and aid Poirot in every way he can but Poirot makes sure to project what a fool Hastings is. It’s not easy to partner a person like Poirot. It’s impossible to deduce what’s going on in his little grey cells. So special appreciation for Hastings.
Coming back to this book. The clues, deductions and revelations are quite exciting at the beginning. It’s not about evidence or test results when it comes to Poirot. It’s all about reasoning and question every action, every movement and even the placement of every object in the crime scene. But when Poirot proves everyone including us wrong and brings in a completely different perspective, it is sort of annoying. May be because it’s forced or because our minds just don’t work like Poirot’s. The way he puts an end to all the loose ends is marvellous. There is no question left unanswered.
The supporting characters in this story aren’t as interesting and captivating like many in the author’s other works. Perhaps another reason why this book, in spite of having a great plot and excellent narrative, still doesn’t enter my top 5 works of Agatha Christie’s.
My top 5 would be, in no particular order:
- And then there were none (Stand alone)
- The Murder on the Orient Express
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
- Three Act Tragedy
- Death on the Nile
I feel I have read all the best works of Agatha Christie and none of the remaining works are going to stand as tall as the above in the list. Nevertheless, I’ll keep my fingers crossed and pursue my journey to complete all the books.
As for this book- This isn’t a bad book but just not the best. Read it if you can’t get your hand on her best works.