picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”

William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet"
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
The Mysterious Affair At StylesThe Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Agatha Christie published this novel - her first one - in 1920, she couldn't have known that one day she'd be listed as the most widely published author of all time, only losing to Shakespeare and the Bible. It's probably fair to say that Hercule Poirot, the little Belgian detective who would recur in much of her work and makes his first appearance here, is one of the great iconic figures of the 20th Century.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles features many familiar tropes to the golden age of crime - the locked room mystery, a cast of suspects stuck in a house, a surprising denouement. One particular trope which Christie would use to better effect in later novels is the unreliable narrator - in this case, Arthur Hastings, a slightly dim-witted "Watson" to Poirot.

Hastings recounts his time at Styles, of how he was invited by his friend John to spend some time there, during which time John's stepmother is poisoned. It just so happens that Hasting's friend Poirot, a celebrated detective, is in the village with a group of Belgian refugees. Hastings, with John's consent, invites Poirot to look into the case.

Because Hastings is seen as a bit of a fool, incapable of keeping information to himself, Poirot often feeds him (and, consequently, the reader) wrong information, in the hope of keeping the killer unaware of the circle closing in. Some could say this is unfair of Christie, despite her dropping many hints along the way that Hastings can't be relied on and is a bit of a joke (his sudden marriage proposal to one of the suspects and her burst of laughter being one example.)

Styles is based in a village in Essex, and its family has some political views that would make UKIP members blush today. One of them, for a house party, smudges herself with a burnt cork to look like a black person (Christie uses the n-word). And others can barely hold back their disdain and suspicion of a local doctor that happens to be a Polish Jew. I'd like to think Poirot, who is also a foreigner - and a refugee to make matters worse! - changes their mind a little bit by saving the day.

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