Book Review – The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

This book is the first of many published by the “Queen of Crime” herself. This book contains many elements that have become icons of the Golden Generation of Detective Fiction, largely due to Christie’s influence. The story is set during the First World War and captures the scene well, keeping the reader updated constantly of the war scenario, parallell with the storyline.  

 

This book introduces us to many memorable characters, none more so than the protagonist, Hercule Poirot. This diminutive egg-headed man is said to be one of the smartest heads on the planet, and has some cheesy pick-up lines for an old man. The protagonist’s aide, Captain Hastings, is how Christie involves herself with the story and it starts slowly with the introduction of characters. The characters are well described and can be easily identified by their dialogues. This can be a joy and a pain to read, but once the story gets to the murder, it is a treat for the mind and just keeps enthralling the reader, chapter after chapter.

 

The story starts with Hastings spending time with his good friend John Cavendish in their manor in Styles, England. Although the family is very tight-knit, inner feuds are always prevalent among them. But once it is known that there is a murderer among them and all suspects are hiding some facts about themselves, Hastings quickly calls upon his most trusted friend, Monsieur Hercule Poirot. As the story progresses, it discourages you from taking a break as Christie ends chapters on major cliffhangers.

 

This book defines the quote, “The best way to hide something is in plain sight.” more appropriately than any other book. Poirot also conveys important messages of his own throughout the duration of the story. “If the theory denies the fact- the theory must be eliminated.” He always goes with his instincts which is the reason that his ‘grey cells’ haven’t deteriorated. “Imagination is a good servant, but a bad master.” This quote from Poirot is so monumental given the plotline given he always insists on using the right proportion of logic, facts and imagination to solve a case.

 

The plot takes place with a lot of research and calculations which can, sometimes annoy the reader. But the culmination of such rigorous technicality is a book which, at the end of the day, can make you go “Wow. That was a good read.”


This book, although serious in its appearance, can also provide for good humour with characters such as Hastings around, as his innocence combined with his ‘bromance’ with Poirot can make for a hearty laugh. All in all, this book gives the reader a prelude of the big little man, that is Poirot and his exciting adventures along with his trusty partner, Captain Hastings.

– Sai Sudhir

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