I am a bit late on this review, here we go! The fourth week of June was my opportunity to read a mystery and I chose The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, which happens to be her first published work. The novel introduces Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective who shows up in a fair number of her mysteries. It is a bit difficult to give a summary of the story without giving away clues, so this will be quite short.
The novel is set during World War 1 and is in first-person narrative by Lieutenant Hastings, a former British Army Officer who was wounded and ends up taking leave with an old acquaintance, John Cavendish. While staying with Cavendish, Hastings runs into an old friend Hercule Poirot, who is staying in a nearby village with other Belgian refugees. Shortly after arriving at Styles, the lady of the household dies. Due to the suspicion of murder, Hastings advises that Cavendish ask that Poirot investigate her death. The plot takes many twists and turns, with each main character in turn acting in a manner that is not entirely innocent. Hastings alternately admires and scorns Poirot’s methods and theories, though oftentimes wishing Poirot would speak more plainly of his thought patterns and why some clues were important and others were not. As expected, the true murderer, method, and motivation is revealed at the very end of the book with Poirot explaining to the main characters how he deduced all of the above.
Truthfully, I did not find the story especially engaging. Hastings is too judgemental and emotional which cloud his observations, not a quality that is desirable in a man who wishes to be a detective. Poirot is a caricature of a foreign detective, very exaggerated in his mannerisms and eccentric, though it may make him a better detective in some respects. I did find the other main characters to act fairly “human” in their individual ways; obscuring evidence to protect a loved one, telling lies to protect personal reputations and family name, and arrogance that they can conceal feelings and facts in a small town/group. Overall, I may try to read some of her other works later, but I’m not going to rush out for another any time soon.
Week 5: Biography