Hercule Poirot has just arrived in England as a refugee when he meets Captain Hastings whom he met once in Belgium while on a case. Poirot had been in the Belgian police force then.
Captain Hastings is recovering from a war injury and recuperating in a small rural village of Styles St. Mary as a guest in the Styles Manor. Emily Inglethorp is the mistress of the manor and when one day she is suddenly found dead with suspicions of foul play, the Belgian Detective is called in to investigate.
Now its up to Hercule Poirot with his "well groomed mustache" and an "egg- shaped head" to apply his famous "little grey cells" and solve the puzzling murder of the mistress of the manor. As in many of Agatha Christie's successive novels, here too everyone has a motive to do away with the old woman and everyone from the wealthy old woman's much younger husband to her step sons to her embittered daughter-in-law is hiding something or the other. The crime is not evident at first and subtle methods like poisoning are used to commit a crime. :)
But can Poirot solve this murder?
Who poisoned the wealthy Emily Inglethorp and how did he penetrate and escape from her locked room with no one witnessing him?
A legendary introduction to the equally legendary Belgian detective, this mystery is a masterpiece from the "Queen of Crime" where the crime is almost perfect and seemingly so impossible that it keeps the readers at the edge of their seats. No amount of guessing and brainstorming could help in solving or even coming close to a solution to this mystery and when the solution did unfold I was stunned and at a loss of words. In the words of Poirot,
“You gave too much rein to your imagination. Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely.”
The descriptions of the characters and the places are lively and well depicted. The country house of Styles is huge and magnificent but its inhabitants are deceivingly happy.
“... one may live in a big house and yet have no comfort.”
Christie expertly handles all the clues and the red herrings and gives every opportunity to the reader to solve the mystery on his own but inspite of it all, she always keeps one step ahead of our reasoning. :)
“Real evidence is usually vague and unsatisfactory. It has to be examined---sifted. But here the whole thing is cut and dried. No, my friend, this evidence has been very cleverly manufactured---so cleverly that it has defeated its own ends.”
A great story, expert scenarios, balanced and very well developed characters and a mystery that will stump you, I give The Mysterious Affair at Styles a full 5 on 5 and highly recommend this book to all mystery lovers.