Book reviews, musings and waffle from a British lit addict

Crime Review: ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ by Agatha Christie


Rating:  2.5 out of 5 stars


Synopsis

The famous case that launched the career of Hercule Poirot. When a wealthy heiress is murdered, Poirot steps out of retirement to find the killer. As the master detective makes his way through the list of suspects, he finds the solution in an elaborately planned scheme almost impossible to believe.


Review

Yes, that’s right, more Agatha Christie.  I figured that it was about time I got acquainted with at least one of Christie’s long-standing characters.  Since I’ve never been that keen on the idea of a superior and nosy older lady (Miss Marple, that means you…), I went with Hercule Poirot.

What I had failed to appreciate was that Poirot doesn’t narrate his own stories.  Or at least, he doesn’t narrate this particular story.  Instead of spending time in the mind of a quirky Belgian detective, I was instead subjected to the narrow-minded and jealous musings of Captain Arthur Hastings.  Early on in the novel, the strange blend of first/third person narrative works quite well but before too long, I just wanted Hastings to shut up and go away.

I wanted to be charmed and beguiled by a moustached, suave European.  It turns out that I didn’t really want to be “on the side” of an amateur investigator who spends a large time going through the same thought process:  “Poirot has noticed something that I haven’t – how annoying…Ha – he might have found a clue but he’s clearly gone doo-lally and is interpreting it all wrong…Oh gosh!  He was right!  How foolish I am…”  Rinse and repeat.

Narration aside, the plot is a good old classic mystery.  Locked rooms, mysterious poisons, shifty characters and plenty of misdirection. Something is lost because you miss out on Poirot’s thought processes – every now and then, he’ll find a clue and rush off before coming back for a Big Reveal, which was interesting but didn’t have quite the same mystique.  

If you’re already a fan of Christie’s mysteries, there’s plenty here for you to recognise and appreciate.  If you’re just starting out (which, seeing as I’ve only read three, probably includes me!), you might want to start with a stand-alone like the FABULOUS And Then There Were None (reviewed here).  If you’re desperate to be introduced to Hercule Poirot, just bear in mind that this isn’t Christie’s best.

Oh, and also, I starting out reading the eBook version of this and had to abandon it because it kept referring to pictures, plans and notes that just weren’t there in the eBook.  In this case, traditional paper will serve you better. 

Overall:  I’m happy to put my time on this one down as investment in future books.  Poirot is everything that I wanted him to be – a kooky, eccentric genius (of sorts).  The story isn’t particularly unique and I was disappointed that I didn’t get as much Poirot as I wanted to but it’s a passable way to spend a couple of hours.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished:  23 June 2012
Format:  eBook/Paperback
Source:  Borrowed from my local library (both formats…)
Genre:  Mystery; Crime
Published: by HarperCollins in June 2004; Originally published in October 1920