First published in 1920, The Mysterious Affair at Styles is both the first of Agatha Christie's many mystery novels and the first appearance of dapper little Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective. Confronted with a house full of suspects, it falls to Poirot to sort throught the clues, examine the motives, fit together the pieces that don't quite fit, and solve the puzzle of who poisoned Mrs. Inglethorp...and how they did it.
Although published in 1920 the story was written in 1916, at a time when England had become home to numerous Belgian refugees displaced by WWI. The "Rape of Belgium," originated in the early days of the war, was still a popular theme with British propagandists, Germany's invasion of Belgium having furnished a major rationale for Britain's entry into the war. These facts undoubtedly influenced not only this particular story but the Poirot character as well.
Agatha Christie's mysteries were characterized by complex but plausible plots, unlike some other mystery writers who sometimes resorted to absurdly convoluted and contrived resolutions. Generally avoiding secret passages, hidden doors, and the abrupt appearance of new characters, devices which were well-worn by her time, Christie elevated the "red herring" and the "blind alley" to the level of a mischievous art form, where the herrings may turn out not to be red and the alleys may not be blind after all, all the while providing enough clues for the attentive reader to solve the mystery.
For fans of the classic mystery story, those new to Agatha Christie or Hercule Poirot, or readers new to the genre, The Mysterious Affair at Styles represents a thoroughly enjoyable tale, a well-crafted and polished mystery enjoyed by readers for generations and all the more remarkable for the fact that it was the author's first mystery novel.
About the Author
The name "Agatha Christie" is nearly synonymous with upper-class British mysteries, for good reason. Christie (1890-1976) set the standard for the genre in more than 60 novels and dozens of short stories, creating two iconic detectives along the way: the fastidious Belgian Hercule Poirot, and the English spinster Jane Marple in the Miss Marple series. No one could match her knack for weaving clues into her stories. Widely considered her masterpiece, And Then There Were None has been adapted into a number of films.
Date of Birth:September 15, 1890
Date of Death:January 12, 1976
Place of Birth:Torquay, Devon, England