Book Review – The Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie

First published, 1920

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Mysterious Affair At Styles is set during the First World War and is Agatha Christie’s debut novel. In it, we meet Hastings who, on a visit to the country estate of his old chum and his extended family, finds himself slap-bang in the middle of a case of intrigue and suspense.

John Cavendish, Hastings’ friend, lives in his childhood home with his wife, his stepmother, his stepmother’s new husband, his stepmother’s secretary/companion, and her ward.

No one likes the new husband. Being much younger than the stepmother, it’s clear he’s a money-grabber with a ridiculous beard. But the rest of the family is close to broke and largely unhappy, so, when the old lady is poisoned, the murderer might be anybody.

Luckily, Belgian former detective, Hercule Poirot is in the area and is willing to put his extraordinary brainpower to the test to solve the case.

The writing is stunning, expansive and beautiful, and – worth mentioning – of its time. There is a racial slur in the dialogue.

I’ll say this: it’s shocking from the perspective of now. When this book was written, it would have been a common enough word, and no one would have been surprised by it.

I am not suggesting that certain words should be redacted from classical literature, but I do think it’s important to remember the age and the time of certain works, and to understand there are words we use now for which future generations might judge us.

Okay, so that’s that explained. Otherwise, the writing is amazing. There are motives everywhere, plenty of likeable characters, some wonderful language, a very cleverly constructed story. I loved it. I’d been reading for seven minutes when I decided not to get off the sofa until I’d finished.

This particular print comes as the original book nears its hundredth birthday and, aside from the misprint on the cover (which is pretty devastating), it’s complete and includes the original drawings.