Introducing Hercule Poirot, the brilliant– and eccentric– detective who, at a friend’s request, steps out of retirement– and into the shadows of a classic mystery on the outskirts of Essex. The victim is the wealthy mistress of Styles Court, found in her locked bedroom with the name of her late husband on her dying lips. Poirot has a few questions for her fortune-hunting new spouse, her aimless stepsons, her private doctor, and her hired companion. The answers are positively poisonous. Who’s responsible, and why, can only be revealed by the master detective himself.
There are some books that, no matter how many times I read them, I can’t make stick in my mind. I can’t remember the plot, I can’t remember the characters– heck, I’m lucky if I remember who even wrote the thing. The Mysterious Affair at Styles is one of those books, and it’s really weird that I can’t remember it because it’s Agatha Christie’s first book ever. So surely it’d have SOMETHING to it that’d I’d remember long after reading it, right?
I think maybe the reason why I have such trouble remembering The Mysterious Affair at Styles is because of Hastings. I HATE Hastings, and I especially hate him in this book. He’s the ultimate Dumb Watson, without an ounce of charm or likability, and thus I have to block him from my memory lest his stupidity infect me like some sort of textual virus. Maybe if I saw a screen version of this book the actor who played Hastings could redeem him for me, but in text I simply loathe him.
Poirot is also annoying in this book, although some would say he’s ALWAYS annoying. He’s also weirdly kind to poor dumb Hastings, which, sinc emost Watsons are supposed to be representatives of the reader, makes me wonder if Agatha Christie thought her readers would be really dumb, too. Surely I’m not as dumb as Hastings is in this book? I mean, yeah, I didn’t manage to figure out the solution before Poirot said it, but that’s characteristic of Agatha Christie’s books and thus not a very unusual thing to happen to me.
That is, I think, my favorite thing about Agatha Christie’s books. She gives you enough clues throughout the book that you feel like you’re part of the investigation, that you can maybe even solve it! But she doesn’t make her endings as obvious as the clues would lead you to believe they’d be– and yet the solutions (almost) never seem like they came out of left field. She really was an amazing author, and even stupid Hastings can’t make me ENTIRELY hate one of her books.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles also showcases her amazing grasp of human psychology, which is pretty neat. AND it’s got some nifty biographical stuff: for instance, there’s one character who works at a dispensery in a hospital, which AC used to do herself not long before she wrote this book.
So I suppose even IF Hastings ruins most of the book for me, he doesn’t ruin ALL of it. And if you don’t hate Hastings like I do, or if you’ve never read an Agatha Christie book before, this one might be a good one to start with. Maybe you’ll have better luck remembering it than I will.
Read: July 3, 2012 (reread)