Now I had a slow start to my self challenge but I finally finished the first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Now this was a book I had read several time,s but this time I tried to read the book as if it was my first time through. This was a lot harder than I originally thought it would be. I believe I managed to do a OK job at it though, and here are a few of my thoughts.
This is not only the first mystery novel Agatha Christie published, it is also the first appearance of the famous Hercule Poirot. Monsieur Poirot and his "little gray cells" went on to star in over 30 novels and over 50 short stories. Leaving out everything else I have read with him in it I came away still liking this strange overly pompous, egotistical man. The man is cunning and so sure of himself he is willing to take risks with other peoples lives in order to produce the outcome he desires.
I have always found myself fascinated by a man who is described in this book as "hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible. I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound." This description was given by Arthur Hastings who is narrating the book. Colonel Hastings would appear regularly throughout Hercule Poirot's career as a Watson like character. Poirot's reasoning and skills of observation are wonderful to watch play out as he solves the case.
This is also the first appearance of Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard. Not much is revealed about him in this book other than he had previously worked with Poirot and has full trust in him.
I loved the book and recommend if to anyone who has never read a Agatha Christie book. This is a good taste of what she has to offer as a story teller. In this book as in her others, the clues are always there for you to spot and there are never any surprises. One of the characters from this book, Evelyn Howard, describes the way bad writing in mystery novels so often goes "Lots of nonsense written....criminal discovered in last chapter. Every one dumbfounded." This is not the case for Agatha Christie books, the killer is always there to spot if you are as clever as Hercule Poirot.
This is the plot synopsis from the publisher of the edition I read (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers)
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 guest, she is found poisoned in her locked bedroom. The long list of suspects includes her gold-digging new husband, her stepsons, 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.