This is the very first book that came from “the Queen of Crime,” Agatha Christie. The books and grandma stories that used to amuse us as children were about beautiful princesses, cruel stepmothers and animals that talked and lived like men. In our next stage of reading some of us escape from the world of fantasy to the thrill and suspense of crime and detective stories.
In this novel Agatha Christie created Hercule Poirot the egg-faced little Belgian who became the most popular detective after Sherlock Holmes. The story is narrated by Arthur Hastings who tells us how he presented his friend Poirot with a puzzle to piece together —- the mysterious affair at Styles.
The story happens in England during the First World War. Hastings got injured in the war. He has been invited by his friend John Cavendish to his country house at Styles Court. On his arrival John informs him that his stepmother Emily Cavendish has married a man twenty years younger called Alfred Inglethorp. After a few days Mrs. Inglethorp gets murdered by strychnine poisoning and her husband, who is already looked at as a fortune hunter, is the main suspect. Hastings calls upon Mr.Poirot, the retired Belgian detective, to investigate the murder.
The most interesting aspect of the book is that Christie wrote it in response to a challenge to write a detective story in which the reader would not solve the mystery till the end. The reader gets all the clues given by Poirot but cannot spot the murderer till the end. There are many suspects who seem to hide some secret. The investigation consists of many shocking twists cleverly planned by the author. As commented by the Times Literary Supplement, “A shattered coffee cup, a splash of candle grease, a bed of begonias —- only Poirot could unravel an ingenious crime from these few intriguing clues.”
Reviewed by Kamala G.