Happy Birthday Agatha Christie!
Today is 128th birthday of Agatha Christie and in her honor we have:
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie
I love Agatha Christie’s books. I’ve read almost every single one, but I have never done it in order. I have always wanted to-and will be and be posting on here after I have read them.
My love for Agatha Christie’s book all began when my nana found out I loved mysteries. She gave me a book that held three of her novels in one binding-The Seven Dials Mystery, Crooked House, and Ordeal by Innocence. After that I was hooked and bought/devoured any of her books I could find in thrift stores-taking home as many as I was able to.
Anyways, The Mysterious Affair at Styles was the first of Agatha Christie’s books published under her own name and the first of her mysteries. And it all started with a harmless “bet” between her sister Madge. Madge said that Agatha wouldn’t be able to write a good but she showed her.
It is the middle of WWII-rationing, moving from city to country, refugees, etc. Colonel Hastings, our narrator and Hercule Poirot’s best friend, starts off the novel in the flavor of Mr. Watson-a recount of the event, the murder, and the “mysterious affair” at Styles.
It all started when he ran into his good friend, John Cavendish. John invites him to join him and the family at Styles. At Styles, is John and his wife Mary-the country squire and wife, the younger brother Lawrence-studied to be a doctor but instead pursued literary ambitions with no success; and Cynthia-a young girl from poor family who is taken in by charity and works as a nurse.
Mrs. Cavendish married John and Lawrence’s father after their mother died, raising them as her own. When Mr. Cavendish died she inherited all the money until her death, which it then reverts home to John, the eldest, and money to Lawrence. She enjoyed the role as Mrs. Cavendish-and controlling the boys with how much money she doles out.
“Mrs. Cavendish, however, was a lady who liked to make her own plans, and expected other people to fall in with them, and in this case she certainly had the whip hand, namely: the purse strings.”
Well, there we go. A petri dish of tension just building for murder.
But to Colonel Hastings surprise, Mrs. Cavendish remarried! Her nurse Evelyn “Evie” Howard had a cousin visit-one Evie did not care for, and her helped Mrs. Cavendish with her many projects. The two fell in love and wed, now Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Inglethorpe.
No one likes Alfred Inglethorpe, Mrs. Cavendish-er Inglethorpe’s new husband. They all see him as a gold digger, but she won’t listen to anyone.
Colonel Hasting doesn’t see why anyone would be attracted to Alfred Inglethorpe. He looks more like a caricature rather than a real person.
“I looked with some curiosity at ‘Alfred darling’. He certainly struck an alien note…It was one of the longest and blackest [beards] I have ever seen. He wore gold-rimmed pince-nez, and had a curious impassivity of feature. It struck me that he might look natural on a stage, but was strangely out of place in real life. His voice was rather deep and unctuous.”
Evie and Mrs Inglethorpe fight when Evie speaks out against Alfred. Mrs. Inglethorpe sends her packing and as she leaves, her last words were that someone was going to kill Mrs Inglethorpe and implores Colonel Hastings to watch out for her.
Then comes the fateful day. Everyone seems a bit off, excitement and tension in the air. They have a great luncheon, where everyone takes part in a tableaux and shows how they are fantastic actors.
They then visit Cynthia at work, have tea with her, and take a look at the dispensary and the poisons.
On the way back they stop at the post office as Colonel Hastings needs stamps and who should be there but Hercule Poirot! Hstings old friend and former leader of the Belgian police. And the greatest detective!
There is a fight that night between Alfred and Mrs Inglethorpe. After dinner, they have coffee or cocoa and then Alfred goes out to see a friend.
That night the tragedy was struck.
That night Colonel Hasting is awaken by Lawrence. John and the maid Dorcas are also awake and trying to get in Mrs Inglehorpr’s room as it is bolted. They can tell something is wrong and are trying to help her.
They go through Alfred’s room, and Hastings notices that there is no sign of him having been there that night-the bed not mussed everything. They get in and try to help her but are unable to. Her last words:
They believe that she is poisoned. Everyone is a bit shocked and at a loss of what to do, so Colonel Hastings suggests bringing in Poirot.
Hastings tells Poirot all he can remember of what he knows that has happened in the past few days. They then look over Mrs. Inglethorpe’s room and the house.
Poirot finds six interesting things that will lead them to the killer.
- A coffee cup that as has been ground into powder.
- A despatch case with a key in the lock.
- A stain on the floor.
- Fragment of some dark green fabric-only a thread or two, but recognizable.
- A large splash of candle grease on the floor by the writing table.
- And the sixth he keeps to himself.
Poirot also discovers that Mrs. Inglethorpe wrote a new will:
Everything points to Alfred, but when he goes on trial-Poirot brings information that sets him free-free from being formally charged.
How could Poirot do that? And if it isn;t Alfred? Then who is it?
You’ll just have to read to find out.
Thoughts After Reading:
It was amazing as all her work is. Every time I read I am captured into the book and just astounded at how well she crafts a tale.
For more Agatha Christie, go to The Murder at the Vicarage
For more gold diggers, go to A Case of Identity
For more death by poisons, go to Death by Darjeeling
For more mysteries that take place during World War I, go to A Duty to the Dead