Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Mysterious Affair at Styles~ Agatha Christie

It's the middle of World War 1 and Hastings has been sent home on sick leave. He is staying with an old friend, John Cavendish, at John's step-mother's estate: Styles. 

After several weeks, they are all woken up to find that Mrs. Inglethorp is dying, having been poisoned. They might not have gotten to the bottom of the poisoning if Hercule Poirot had not been in town. Emily herself had helped him and several other Belgian refugees to safety, and they were living nearby. Poirot feels indebted to her, and is determined to find the murderer... but it could have been anyone...

Emily Inglethorp herself, a wealthy old woman and the mistress of styles.
Alfred Inglethorp, her much younger new husband.
John Cavendish, her elder stepson who still lives at Styles because Emily does not give him and his wife a large enough allowance to live anywhere on their own.
Mary Cavendish, John's wife who seems to be hiding something.
Lawrence Cavendish, John's younger brother who, for some reason, keeps insisting the death was natural?
Evelyn Howard, Emily's companion who packs her bags and leaves in a huff because of an argument with Emily about Alfred Inglethorp.
Cynthia Murdoch, the orphan who lives with Emily and is consistently reminded of her dependency.
Dr. Bauerstein, a suspicious doctor who studies poisons and has become a friend of Mary Cavendish.
Dorcas, a maid a Styles.

Hercule Poirot and Hastings try to solve the murder, Poirot constantly reeling in Hastings who keeps jumping to conclusions. The clues are fed, one by one, and it's quite a feat to piece them together. Of course, as I expect when I read an Agatha Christie, I had many theories over the course of the novel, but none of them were quite right. I was astonished when the murderer was revealed, and, of course, felt like I ought to have figured it out. 

I had fun with this one, reading it out loud to my Grandma. There was a teeny bit of language, which I skipped over. I enjoyed making up a Belgian accent for Poirot, to make it easier to tell the characters apart when they were speaking, since speaking tags (said Poirot, said Hastings, said Cynthia etc) were not always used. It would have been easy enough reading it to myself, but in the event of a read aloud those things get muddled. There is a map of the house and of the crime-scene in the book, which helped clarify a few details. (Note: the poison noted repeatedly is strychnine. After a meadly of attempts at pronunciation, I asked Grandma if she knew, and she said, "oh! That's what you've been trying to say? It's Strick-nine." Well, it seems obvious now, but I'd had no idea, before). Grandma and I each shared a few suspicions and drew attention to clues and facts that we thought were important, and when the murderer was revealed we were a little disappointed we hadn't figured it out ourselves.  

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie is recommend for those who enjoy reading mysteries, other Agatha Christies, those who enjoy figuring things out, and readers who like historical fiction especially ones set during World War 1.

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