“Instinct is a marvelous thing. It can neither be explained nor ignored.”
The first novel in the Hercule Poirot series, The Mysterious Affair at Styles marks the beginning of the adventures of the famous detective. In my reading of Agatha Christie novels over the years I remember picking up this first Poirot and eventually setting it aside, unfinished. I simply could not get into the story. So, when I decided to tackle the full Poirot reading list, The Mysterious Affair at Styles was one I was not particularly excited to get to. However, upon reading it, I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that I liked it well enough. It is certainly not a favourite and I will likely not recall much of it down the line, but it was enjoyable enough to read in the moment. So, what is The Mysterious Affair at Styles?
The mysterious affair is the very mysterious death of Emily Inglethorp, a wealthy lady murdered in her locked bedroom. How did the killer enter and leave without any notice? There is no shortage of possible suspects but the circumstances are mysterious indeed. Enter Hercule Poirot, in his debut as the brilliant and oh so memorable detective.
The mystery drew me in and I was genuinely curious to see not only who committed the crime, but also how it played out. Initially, I did find it tough to keep track of the characters and who was who. There are a lot of descriptions and the way things are presented was somewhat tedious to follow. The most surprising aspect of the novel was the character of Hastings, Poirot’s sidekick, if you will. I cannot express how irritating this character is. An aspiring detective who is so beyond dense and clueless it is quite baffling. The fact that he has a desire to be a detective and believes himself to be an observant person becomes laughable at a certain point. Having read many Poirot books over the years, I don’t remember ever having an issue with this character. I am interested to follow the evolution of Hastings as I make my way through all the books in the series. While The Mysterious Affair at Styles is not a particularly memorable story, I do feel it is a solid first novel in what became an intriguing set of mysteries and brought to life the unique character of detective Poirot.