Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Title: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Author: Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot #1
Genre: Mystery, murder mystery, classic, detective, crime
Who poisoned the wealthy Emily Inglethorpe, and how did the murderer penetrate and escape from her locked bedroom? Sus-pects abound in the quaint village of Styles St. Mary--from the heiress's fawning new husband to her two stepsons, her volatile housekeeper, and a pretty nurse who works in a hospital dispensary. Making his unforgettable debut, the brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is on the case. The key to the success of this style of detective novel, writes Elizabeth George in her Introduction, lies in how the author deals with both the clues and the red herrings, and it has to be said that no one bettered Agatha Christie at this game.
The first installment of the long journey about the great Hercule Poirot. Although this didn't make Agatha Christie's name like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, it still was a legendary classic that started one of the most important and well-known detective series in the golden age of detective fiction.
What I loved most about this book is that, like a lot of Christie's books, its goal was not only to get the reader involved into solving the murderer by providing the necessary subtle hints, it also tries really, really hard to fool you.
And it works.
This is my second Agatha Christie novel, my first being The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which I reviewed not too long ago. It's actually because of the tricks and ways Christie used to try and fool her readers that made her writing style controversial, with critics and readers torn over whether it's just a cheat, or it's genuinely a well-written clever trick. I have to say though, that I...kind of disagree (emphasizes on kind of).
In my opinion, what made this book not a cheat, and a genius, is because of how everything clicks together and make sense. It's similar to the cases of a good foreshadowing, and a bad one. A bad foreshadowing can be really obvious and cringy. That can be caused through how the author tried to be too overly subtle, and ended up didn't give any info and foreshadowing on the big twist whatsoever. That results in the twist to seem 1) totally out of nowhere, 2) doesn't make sense, and 3) makes the ending (and maybe even the entire book) looks bad because of how cringy it was.
Mystery at the Styles definitely didn't have THAT bad of a foreshadowing, and the twist wasn't totally out of nowhere...
....but it still was kind of out of no where....
(remember when I emphasized on "kind of" disagreeing)
Spoilers for Murder of Roger Ackroyd ahead.
I gave Murder of Roger Ackroyd five stars, but looking back, I should've given it the maximum of four and a half stars. The twist was great, and I actually suspected Doctor Sheppard before, just I didn't think it was (likely) possible. I absolutely loved how Christie proved me wrong. But thinking it back, if I didn't write that review high on the adrenaline rush right after reading the book...
The writing was extraordinary, but...it definitely had its flaws.
The foreshadowing was really, really, subtle. It's actually on the edge of being just completely silent. So if you didn't, like, REALLY pay attention the first time you read it, most likely you'll miss those really subtle details.
The reason I'm bringing this up from another book is being this book (being both Christie novels on Hercule Poirot cases) have the similar writing style on foreshadowing. In other words, my opinion now on Murder of Roger Ackroyd reflects on what I think of The Mysterious Affair at Styles' writing style.
Essentially, instead of criticizing and complaining of the foreshadowings where "too subtle", "out of nowhere", etc. I, on the other hand, would suggest people to appreciate and acknowledge how subtle the details were, to the extent that if you even blink while reading the book, you'll miss it.
I guess it's just the matter of perspective then. But whatever you say, you have to admit that this book is a masterpiece classic for a reason, written by one of the best authors in that genre of all time.