2008: 148. The Mysterious Affair at Styles

“The intense interest aroused in the public by what was known at the the time as “The Styles Case” has now subsided.”

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie

So this is the very first novel Christie ever wrote, and thus is the very first Poirot novel, too (watch this space for more early Christie - I have been doing a ton on re-reading* of her works, and have been doing it in chronological order, and I must say finding her early fiction better than I had remembered).  Things I had forgotten about this book - that Poirot had come to England as a  retired policeman refuge during WWI (which makes his subsequent detective work in the 1970’s particularly impressive, but such is the nature of serial detective fiction), and that he met Hastings after Hastings had been de-mobbed, after an injury.  In fact, the reason Poirot gets involved with the murder is that the victim, though a sort of unpleasant woman, had been instrumental in Belgium relief work, and he feels obligated to avenge her.  When you read 50 years of an author’s work, you forget that the 1920’s was still so influenced by the first war, and it was sort of disconcerting to think of Poirot in that context!

The mystery is pretty good, particularly for a first mystery - it uses a trope that Christie will use again - SPOILER - that the actual murderer is originally suspected, because ALL the evidence points to him, and then is cleared because it is all to obvious, only to find that he has set the whole thing up in this manner (in this novel, she uses the notion of double jeopardy as an explanation for this, which she never really returned to, probably thinking that legal analysis wasn’t her strong suit).  In real life, you’d be a stone cold criminal if you had the guts to throw the evidence your way, but it works in mystery fiction so I can’t complain.  But mostly, I like this one because it introduces us to Poirot, more than the mystery itself, which is adequate more than stellar.

Date/Place Completed: 10/1/08; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Re-read; Agatha Christie Project

* Not to be all TMI, but they are the perfect thing to read at 3:30 A.M. when I am trying to keep myself from falling asleep while breastfeeding!

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017