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Cover of The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

author: Agatha Christie (1920)
series: Hercule Poirot #1
date read: 2020-06-14
pages: 121
lists: mystery
rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

I’m not really one for mysteries, and I enjoyed this book more than I expected. This is the first of the Poirot books, and it is already a near-perfect example of its genre. It opens by describing, at length, the initial setting, implying heavily who will die, and shows off how everybody has means and/or motive to become a murderer, all the while being very proper and British about it. Then, the murder, then, the curious Belgian detective, then, an unbelievable amount of clues and red herrings. Final clarity to be delivered on the last pages in a dramatic manner, exit villain left, curtains.

What I enjoyed a lot was how funny Christie was – she wrote this book during WW1, when she was 26, and showed an extremely good eye for people. Particularly the first-person narrator, Hastings, is an upper-class idiot with an extremely inflated sense of his importance and intelligence, which she conveys beautifully.

‘We must be so intelligent that he does not suspect us of being intelligent at all.’ I acquiesced. ‘There, mon ami, you will be of great assistance to me.’ I was pleased with the compliment. There had been times when I hardly thought that Poirot appreciated me at my true worth.

Interesting how both Watson and Hastings are home, wounded from a war, and decidedly less clever followers of a brilliant detective. I find Watson the much more sympathetic of the two, both because he has some actual qualifications, and because he has to live with Holmes’ sociopathic abuse. Hastings has less of an excuse for his attitude, and less of a reason to garner sympathy, so I took an enjoyment – intended and well-presented – in seeing his big head deflated a bit. He’s the very image of the extremely mediocre white (tech, currently) dude, and if you imagine a very clever woman living in the 20s, writing this book, you can see how writing Hastings is an extremely enjoyable form of therapy-cum-punching-bag.

I have read some Agatha Christie before, and I’ll try to read some more. It’s a very nice distraction, basically comfort food.


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