THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES
Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot #1
Back in England, Agatha Christie introduces Hercule Poirot, the indomitable detective from Belgium, along with detective-in-training, Arthur Hastings in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It is unclear exactly the time period in which Ms. Christie begins her tales involving Poirot, but it seems to be the in the time of the Great War, for some talk of war filters through, and Hastings is on leave from his military duties.
Hastings narrates the story. He is invited to spend leave at his friend’s estate, Styles Court, near Essex, England, which he does so excitedly. He has not seen his friend, John Cavendish, for many years, and both Hastings and Cavendish have much to tell of their lives. It turns out that John’s widowed mother, Emily, recently married a much younger man, Alfred Inglethorp, who is both disliked and distrusted by the others in the family, all of whom reside at Styles Court.
Emily Inglethorp suddenly dies an unexpected and rather unpleasant, and perhaps suspicious, death. Hastings is aware of the little community of Belgians nearby, in which Hercule Poirot resides. He asks for and receives permission to have Poirot take a look at the situation (the family hopes to keep both the police and press uninvolved). Poirot and his “little grey cells” work diligently to determine who did what and when with the resulting back and forth (he did it; no, he did it; well, maybe she did it) until Poirot gathers everyone together and reveals his findings and, yes, surprising conclusions. An interesting thread throughout is how Hastings fumbles with his own sleuthing skills, or lack thereof, and how he vacillates between doubt of Poirot’s skills and admiration for Poirot’s uncanny abilities of deduction.
Up next: Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
Note: If you decide to start one of the series being reviewed and wish to read the next in the series, go to www.fantasticfiction.com, type in the author, and scroll down to see which book was written next under that series. The Manheim Community Library may not have the book you want, but staff will be happy to order it for you from another library.
You can also find and request the next book in the series right from the LSLC catalog. Search the book you have just read from the search bar at the top right of manheimlibrary.org. Click on the title to open up the book information and then scroll down to the section marked “Series”. At a glance, you can see the series and where the book you searched is in the series. For series of more than 14 titles, click on the button below that says “See Full Series”. To request another title from this section, just click on the cover and it will take you to the screen to request a copy from the Library System of Lancaster County to be delivered to Manheim Community Library (or another library in the LSLC.)
(If you do not see the full description that includes the “Series” section, you can also click on the book cover. This will bring you to a screen with a blue header and the book cover. Click on the link for Series and it will bring you to a list of all the books in that series. You will need to go back to the catalog to search and request it this way, though.)
Harriet Engle, a Staff Assistant at the Manheim Community Library, is an avid reader of several authors who write murder mystery series. Look for her weekly reviews highlighting each of these series.