28/07/2014

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (by Agatha Christie)

I was able to find a couple of Agatha Christie books, free for my Kindle, some time ago from Project Gutenberg. Wanting something different from the light romance I’d been reading lately, I decided to read this one. I had no memory of ever having read it before, although to my surprise I discovered later that I did first read 'The Mysterious Affair at Styles' back in 2001.

This is the first of Christie’s books with the well-known Hercule Poirot. The plot features - as so many of the author’s books do - a fairly well-to-do family living in a country home, with guests invited - including the narrator, Hastings, who is friendly with one of the inhabitants. The family is a little complicated - there’s an elderly woman who brought up two stepsons; however she recently re-married someone considerably younger than she is, who nobody really likes. There are various other people in the household - a companion, the wife of one of the sons, and various servants.

A murder happens, and nearly all the household come under suspicion for various good reasons. It’s really a very clever plot; even as the clues gradually unravelled I could not recall who the murderer was, and I was taken in by several red herrings, even while realising that the narrator must inevitably be on the wrong track, one way or another.

When the perpetrator was finally revealed, it all made sense, and the clues fell into place perfectly; Agatha Christie was brilliant at plotting, filling in all the details and leading her readers astray without ever making them feel cheated.

While the characterisation isn’t great - it’s my one slight problem this author - I did appreciate good writing and tight plotting after so many more modern chick-lit books that seem to suffer from lack of editing.

I should also add that my Gutenberg edition of this book was lacking the images included in the book form. While this would not matter for illustrations, these were supposedly snippets of paper with significant text, which were necessary to read to understand the plot fully. Happily I was able to find a paperback version of this book and read from that instead of on my Kindle; I hope that the official Kindle editions have the images included.

The link above is to a paperback edition; there are several available, and this can often be found second-hand. Some of the Kindle editions are inexpensive too.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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