Posted in Books, Reviews

Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles 

If you’ve followed my blog since I’ve resurrected it, you’ll know that every review I make will inevitably be linked to some kind of anecdote from my childhood. Far be it for me to disappoint readers at this stage.

My love of detective novels sprang from the days when I used to rummage through my older cousins’ collection of Nancy Drew novels. I loved how she would collect clues, make deductions and ultimately unmask the culprit and it would turn out to be someone that I wasn’t expecting. I always tried to play the game of whodunit but Nancy was always one step ahead of me. I loved those books. Every time I got good marks in school, it was a toss-up whether I would ask for a new Nancy Drew novel or the latest Sweet Valley installation. Sometimes I was able to sweet-talk my mum into buying me both.

From The Mystery of The 99 Steps to the books where she collaborated with The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew was a constant companion during my teenage years.

And that was a good thing because I think she influenced me to take pride in my intelligence, never mind the fact that she was also a leggy strawberry blonde. Anyway, I grew up loving whodunit and crime/mystery books. I bought all 45 installations of JD Robb’s In Death books for more than just the Eve and Roarke storyline, I genuinely love a good mystery. I am still waiting with bated breath for the next installation of the Cormoran Strike novels.

Dear JK Rowling, I know you’re probably busy with the Harry Potter prequels and being a scriptwriter and such but I need you to write the next Cormoran Strike novel please.

I was looking up things to do last month because I was really really bored and I wanted to participate in something that I can be passionate about. So I thought I’d join one of the book clubs that meet regularly at Waterstone’s Piccadilly. There’s an Armchair Murders Book Club that meets once a month and it was after one of those meetings that it came out that I, bookworm extraordinaire, have never read an Agatha Christie novel.

Seeing as I live in Britain and was attending a book club whose members were primarily British, you can imagine the looks of incredulity and aghast that I received after I let that little fact slip out. Agatha Christie is a British national treasure; I think she might have been made a Dame or something. She’s so famous that even though I’ve never read any of her works, I do know of her. So the manager at Waterstones decided we’d remedy this little affliction of mine then and there and proceeded to place Agatha Christie’s first published work in my hands with the strictest instruction to buy it. Like immediately. I was pretty sure I would be refused entrance to my favourite bookstore if I didn’t comply, so buy it I did.

So I’ve only just finished the book last night and boy, was it an experience. Have you ever watched an episode of Sherlock? Yeah, the feeling is the same. Halfway through the book I gave up on trying to pretend I had a brain and decided I would just let Hercule Poirot solve the mystery for me and enumerate the ways in which I have been too obtuse to see the clues to the murderer’s identity. I would enjoy the book far better that way.tumblr_nr92xgTYYd1uzk74go1_500

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book is set in a country house in Essex. Emily Inglethorp has been poisoned in her own house and all evidence seemingly points to her new husband, 20 years her junior. Hercule Poirot has been brought in by his friend Hastings to help solve the mystery. Did the husband do it? Could it be either one of her stepsons? Or perhaps, the butler? I’m kidding.

The book took me on a wild ride of seemingly innocous instances that turned out to be significant and events that were made a big deal of but turned out to be inconsequential. There was a point when I had no idea what was going on, all I knew was that I was thoroughly entertained. Hercule, like many men who are too intelligent, is also a little bit crazy I think. He reminds me a little bit of Sherlock as portrayed in the tv series. giphyPoirot would go off on tangents that would turn out to yield frutiful information, he would notice everything, he’d already anticipated how each person would react and had forestalled it with a countermove of his own. Seriously, if I didn’t know better, I would think the current incarnation of Sherlock was influenced by the Dame rather than Sir Arthur.

There were no high-tech gadgets involved; Poirot used good old-fashioned observation and powers of deduction. Ok, so some of the plot twists were a little too contrived and convenient. But they weren’t far-fetched. In fact, I suspected one of the plot twists halfway through the book but there were a lot of red herrings that led me astray.

All in all, I found it a really great book, a real page turner, unputdownable. I really liked her prose, it was easy to read and the writing was elegant. I particularly liked how she used her experience of being a pharmacist (not to sure if it was a pharmacist or a nurse) during the war in the use of poison as a murder weapon. I was also really intrigued by the insight into the approaches to medicine during that time period, it makes me appreciate just how far we’ve come.

I’m surely going to read the other Hercule Poirot and maybe the Miss Marple books as well if this book is any indication of the rest of the series. Thank you Waterstones for the recommendation!