Friday, January 26, 2024

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Book One: Hercule Poirot Mysteries) Read Christie January 2024 Selection


Publication Date: 
October 1920

296 pages

I was excited that this was chosen for the Read Christie January selection. I read it years ago but remembered none of the storyline and since it is book one in the Poirot series I was happy to read it again and review it. 


 On leave from the Great War, Arthur Hastings is invited to stay at Styles Court in Essex by his friend, John Cavendish. Just as he is settling in for a comfortable time, John's stepmother, Emily Inglethorp, is shockingly found dead one morning, apparently poisoned with strychnine. Hastings quickly enlists the help of his friend and detective, Hercule Poirot, to find out the what and why behind her death. 

The other guests involved include Alfred Inglethorp, Emily's husband who is many years younger than her, her stepsons John and Lawrence Cavendish (sons of Emily's first husband), Cynthia Murdoch, a family friend, and Evelyn Howard, Emily's friend and companion. Although Emily sometimes changes her will, at the moment it is believed that John will inherit the manor property per his father's will, and that Alfred will inherit Emily's money upon her death. 

Due to an overheard argument the night prior to her death, the occupants of the house are distressed as to what it was about and who she was arguing with. Likely Alfred or John, no one knows for sure and they also cannot find the new will Emily is believed to have written shortly before her death. Alfred left overnight to go to the village and Emily retired alone, taking her document case upstairs with her. When her body is found, the case is also found, broken open and with no documents inside. 

We are introduced to Scotland Yard Inspector Japp, who believes either Alfred or John to be the murderer, Alfred being the inheritor of the money and acting suspiciously, found lying about certain details, and John having no alibi and being in possession of items pertaining to the poison and a disguise, possibly used to buy the strychnine. Poirot, in his painstaking fashion for details, is left to piece each clue together, changing his mind at times as to who is responsible, as each new idea comes to light. 

My Thoughts: 

Going in to this Christie book I knew I would like it no matter what because it was her first. There is something special about it already because of that alone. I have grown fond of Poirot, Hastings, and Japp over the last year and a half of reading (and watching!) Christie books and shows so to see them introduced was fun. I had also read about how her genius with the poisoning storyline was well known and wanted to know how it was done. It was indeed quite an interesting twist that I would not have known about in any way ahead of time. I actually did guess correctly about one of the suspects, and that part was not as surprising, although I sense that Christie used some paths throughout the story to try to throw us off track, only to return to some initial suspicions in the end. 

I love the narration of Hastings, as I find him to be a sweet, innocent character and as Poirot is much more arrogant and harsh in his tone, the inner thoughts of Hastings work better I think for these stories. This book did not have the feel for me of getting to know the minor characters as much, but did include some marital issues between a couple of the guests that worked well for a side story, resolved at the end in a solid way. It wasn't my favorite of Christie's books by any stretch, but it is one you have to read because after all, it is the first. I am greatly looking forward to February's read featuring Tommy and Tuppence, as I've only read one book with those characters. 


  1. This was the first Christie book I ever read and it was so long ago I've completely forgotten the plot and solution now. I did think about re-reading it this month, but went with The Secret of Chimneys instead. I agree that Hastings is a great narrator!

    1. I like the way they designed this year's Read Christie with the three choices in each quarter of the year. That gives some good choices for those who have read the one they usually pick. I will be looking for your review soon!

  2. Maybe I should think about reading more Christie this year. This seems like a good place to start!!

    Thanks for sharing your review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge!