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The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Reviewed by L. Bennett

It has been quite a while since I've picked up one of Agatha Christie's mysteries and I was intrigued by this one because it was the first in her Hercule Poirot series. It also introduces Hastings, a wounded veteran of the war who is recuperating in the home of a childhood friend. It is not a completely happy home because the friend's step-mother has recently married a man no one seems to like, and the friend's wife appears to be entertaining a gentleman who shows up at odd times. When the step-mother is overhead in a heated argument and several hours later dies in agony from poison, Hastings finds that his incipient detective skills are overwhelmed. He calls in Poirot who is conveniently lodging in the nearby town.

With numerous clues, misdirection, and the entire cast of characters tossed into the guilty-until-proven-innocent pile, Poirot goes about inspecting rooms, interviewing household members and staff, and disappearing to unknown places. Hastings bumbles about and arrives at the same conclusion that he has heard from his friend and others. He knows who committed the murder. But Poirot has other ideas.

The book has two endings. One written as the original conclusion to the mystery and the other a later rewrite Christie prepared in response to criticisms. You get to read each one and are left to decide which one you like better. I didn't think either one was particularly strong, but if I had to choose I'd pick the original.

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