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Literature: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Detective novel by Agatha Christie. It was the first novel she wrote and the one where that Belgian detective of hers was introduced. Or was he French? You know who I mean- that funny little man with the egg-shaped head and the ridiculous moustache. Written (and set) during World War One but first published in 1920.

The novel is narrated in first person by Lieutenant Hastings, who, returning invalided from World War I, is invited by his childhood friend John Cavendish at the family manor, Styles Court. On his arrival there, he meets John’s stepmother Emily, a generous but difficult woman who has recently married Alfred Inglethorp, a man much younger than her. Hastings also meets John’s beautiful but enigmatic wife, Mary Cavendish, his nervous brother, Lawrence Cavendish, the mysterious Doctor Bauerstein, Mrs Inglethorp's companion Evelyn Howard, and her young protégé Cynthia Murdoch.

Poirot is introduced as a retired Belgian detective and an old friend of Hastings’s. He is a war refugee staying at a village near Styles Court and meets Hastings coincidentally. When Mrs Inglethorp dies, displaying symptoms alarmingly like those of strychnine poisoning, Poirot is asked and agrees to investigate the case.

The novel is absolutely Fair Play Whodunit; if anything, it has an overabundance of clues (as well as an overabundance of red herrings) which would not be seen in Christie’s later works.

A review from the Pharmaceutical Journal, which applauded “this detective story for dealing with poisons in a knowledgeable way, and not with the nonsense about untraceable substances that so often happens” was Christie’s personal favorite.

The novel has been adapted by ITV as part of the Agatha Christie’s Poirot series starring David Suchet as Poirot, and by BBC Radio Four with John Moffat as Poirot.

One of only two of her books that have fallen into Public Domain; they can be read at Project Gutenberg

Christie had dedicated the book to her mother.

This work of fiction contains examples of:

My ÁntoniaLiterature of the 1910sThe Night Land
Murder on the Orient ExpressMystery LiteraturePeril at End House
The Murder on the LinksLiterature of the 1920sThe Night Wire
    Literature/Hercule PoirotThe Murder on the Links
Hercule PoirotCreator/Agatha ChristieThe Murder on the Links

alternative title(s): The Mysterious Affair At Styles
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