Monday, March 26, 2012

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
by Agatha Christie

After a few recent posts that were kind of out in left field in terms of traditional mystery content it's back to something that's about as traditional as you can get, the first novel by the master of this sort of thing - Agatha Christie. It's also the debut of Poirot, his sidekick Hastings, and police Inspector Japp.

I'll confess right at the outset that although I liked the book I found it to be tough going, which is admittedly more the fault of the reader than the writer. Although I prefer mysteries that are focused on a puzzle I tend to be kind of a dolt sometimes when it comes to keeping up with the intricacies of plot. To complicate things this time around, I read this book in a large number of very brief installments, which tended to exacerbate the problem. I suspect that if I'd sliced it up into a few large chunks I'd have found it much easier going (note to self...).

But enough about that. If you like your mysteries crammed full of old-school elements, then you should give this one a try. It's got the manor house setting and the once widowed and now remarried head of the household who's been bumped off (or so it would seem). It looks poison might be to blame and it looks like her last will and testament might provide a motive. Naturally there's the usual gang of family members and various other hangers on who had the means and motive to do the bumping, not the least of whom is the victim's second husband, who just happens to be one of those shifty foreigner types (shudder).

As the story goes, Christie wrote this book to win a bet that she could devise a mystery novel in which no reader could determine who the culprit was. Whether or not she succeeded in that is a matter that's up for grabs, but the intricate plot with its myriad twists and turns certainly do make for a challenge.

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