"The Mysterious Affair at Styles" is a magnificent literary feat, being Agatha Christie's first published book and also the one in which she introduces Hercule Poirot, the detective whose name has become synonymous with psychological reasoning rather than merely following physical clues in order to reach a conclusion. Even though this is Christie's first book, it contains all of the elements that draw us to her mature work. Hercule Poirot is wonderfully comic, standing out as a Belgian amidst Englishmen. He speaks with an accent and wears dandified clothing which makes people regard him with suspicion. At the same time, he is, like Christie, something of a romantic; not only does he solve a mystery, he also likes to bring people in love together.
The way in which Poirot irritates his sidekick, Lieutenant Hastings, in whose voice the book is written, is also quite amusing. Hastings keeps wondering if Poirot is off his rocker and can't help getting annoyed at him for his mysterious comments that are later explained. For example, how could a fire in the dead woman's room be significant? And what is Poirot's fascination with the missing coffee cup?
The mystery arises when Hastings is visiting his friend John Cavendish who lives with his mother, his brother, his wife and a distant cousin in a large house. His mother is murdered by strychnine poisoning and suspicion immediately falls on her husband who, like Poirot, is a foreigner and subject to local prejudices against him. But there are also several other possibilities because anyone who lived in the house could have done it and many of them had access to strychnine. At different points, we are led to suspect Hastings' friend John, his brother Lawrence, as well as a doctor who works in the vicinity. And matters are complicated when gossip about affairs that people might be having runs rampant. After the police go through a couple of suspects and Hastings' friend John is tried for the murder, Poirot finally reveals who did it in a grand finale worthy of Christie's best-known detective.
Agatha Christie was the daughter of an English mother and an American father. She was initially home schooled and later sent to finishing schools in France. Her first marriage was to Archibald Christie with whom she had a daughter. However, after a decade together, he declared that he wanted a divorce because he was in love with another woman. Her second marriage, to archaeologist Max Mallowan, was a happy one and lasted until her death. Both Christie and Mallowan were knighted for the work they did in their respective fields. At this point, Christie's estate has sold 4 billion copies and her works rank third in the world, after the writings of William Shakespeare and the Bible.
Set in Essex in the English countryside, The Mysterious Affair at Styles
is one of the great classic murder mysteries. The victim, Mrs. Emily
Inglethorp, is the wealthy mistress of Styles Court. After an evening of
entertaining family and guests, she is found poisoned in her locked
bedroom. The long list of suspects includes her gold-digging new
husband, her step-sons, her best female friend, and a visiting doctor. As
luck would have it, a brilliant, if rather eccentric, detective is
among the company at Styles.
In this, her first published mystery, Agatha Christie introduces her
beloved Belgian inspector Hercule Poirot, who methodically pieces
together the intricate evidence of this bewildering crime. From his very
first appearance, Poirot amuses audiences with his oddly fastidious
habits—then astonishes them with the power of his razor-sharp mind.
Christie keeps listeners guessing as to the murderer’s identity until
Poirot finally presents his ingenious solution to this landmark mystery. Download and start listening now!