Originally published in 1916, this is the first of the 44 Hercule Poirot mysteries by Agatha Christie published between then and 1975 (she died in 1975 and the last volume was published posthumously). I read many (!) of them in high school through age about 22. I was given a large collection (probably 30 books) and I in turn gave them to a book drive for Vietnam vets. We had no Amazon and it was harder to find all the titles. But with Hercule Poirot books it’s not necessary to read them in order.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
~ by Agatha Christie
1916 / (2021)
Read by Steven Scalon 6h 43m
rating: 7 / mystery classic
I’d seen The Mysterious Affair at Styles available at Audible and was curious how it would read in 2021 (it’s been newly recorded), but it wasn’t until this week, when it was on sale, that I actually bought it.
So how does it hold up? Quite well actually – better than I thought it would. Nancy Drew totally failed my personal test of time and I read no more of them. But I could have another go at Christie, hers are almost as good as the Sherlock Holmes books still out there.
I was surprised to learn that Christie wrote this on a dare from her someone. She enjoyed writing it and went on to write others, many others, and make a lot of money. The books were scorned by literary folks as they were considered to be, quite simply, atmospheric puzzlers. Today they’re classics but that’s because so many people loved them. There is no particular literary value. The characters are 2-dimensional, the situations lacking in realism. But the plot is fast paced and relies heavily on dialogue.
In this tale a very rich woman has been poisoned and she’s dead. She was newly married to younger man and has two grown stepsons both of whom think they will be the heirs. She also has a close woman companion and various household servants. She changes her will annually.
In the days when this was written, death by poisoning was not uncommon because the toxicology to determine which poison was only being developed. Because of that it was also a common theme in mystery novels.
Christie simply took the Sherlock Holmes detective and made him into the private sleuth of upper middle class domestic mysteries which are resolved via keen observation, thinking about clues and a big whole-cast presence for the releavatory scene of resolution.