The Mysterious Affair at Styles: A Hercule Poirot Mystery

The Mysterious Affair at Styles: A Hercule Poirot Mystery

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by Agatha Christie

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The first Hercule Poirot mystery, now published for the first time with a previously deleted scene and commentary from Agatha Christie expert John Curran.

This is the Agatha Christie book that started it all—the sublime introduction of her master sleuth, Hercule Poirot, and his now legendary powers of detection. Who poisoned the wealthy Emily Inglethorp and

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The first Hercule Poirot mystery, now published for the first time with a previously deleted scene and commentary from Agatha Christie expert John Curran.

This is the Agatha Christie book that started it all—the sublime introduction of her master sleuth, Hercule Poirot, and his now legendary powers of detection. Who poisoned the wealthy Emily Inglethorp and how did the murderer penetrate and escape from her locked bedroom? Suspects 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 is on the case.

Editorial Reviews

Tana French
“Reading a perfectly plotted Agatha Christie is like crunching into a perfect apple: that pure, crisp, absolute satisfaction.”
Time Magazines Literary Supplement (London)
"Almost too ingenious...very clearly and brightly told."
Daily News (UK)
“Altogether a skillfull tale and a talented first book.”
Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Almost too ingenious...very clearly and brightly told.”
The New York Times
Though this may be the first public book of Miss Agatha Christie, she betrays the cunning of an old hand. . . . You may safely make a wager with yourself that until you have heard M. Poirot's final word on the mysterious affair at Styles, you will be kept guessing at its full solution and will certainly never lay down this most entertaining book. -- Books of the Century; New York Times review, December 1920
New York Times Book Review
Though this may be the first public book of Miss Agatha Christie, she betrays the cunning of an old hand. . . . You may safely make a wager with yourself that until you have heard M. Poirot's final word on the mysterious affair at Styles, you will be kept guessing at its full solution and will certainly never lay down this most entertaining book. -- Books of the Century; New York Times review, December 1920
Library Journal
These are the initial eight volumes in what will grow to 24 over two years in Black Dog's new "Agatha Christie Collection." The books are all decent-quality hardcovers for a bargain price. If you're regularly replacing your Christies, gives these more durable editions a try. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Hercule Poirot Series
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Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter I

I Go to Styles

The intense interest aroused in the public by what was known at the time as "The Styles Case" has now somewhat subsided. Nevertheless, in view of the world-wide notoriety which attended it, I have been asked, both by my friend Poirot and the family themselves, to write an account of the whole story. This, we trust, will eVectually silence the sensational rumours which still persist.

I will therefore brieXy set down the circumstances which led to my being connected with the aVair.

I had been invalided home from the Front; and, after spending some months in a rather depressing Convalescent Home, was given a month's sick leave. Having no near relations or friends, I was trying to make up my mind what to do, when I ran across John Cavendish. I had seen very little of him for some years. Indeed, I had never known him particularly well. He was a good Wfteen years my senior, for one thing, though he hardly looked his forty-Wve years. As a boy, though, I had often stayed at Styles, his mother's place in Essex.

We had a good yarn about old times, and it ended in his inviting me down to Styles to spend my leave there.

"The mater will be delighted to see you again?after all those years," he added.

"Your mother keeps well?" I asked.

"Oh, yes. I suppose you know that she has married again?"

I am afraid I showed my surprise rather plainly. Mrs. Cavendish, who had married John's father when he was a widower with two sons, had been a handsome woman of middle-age as I remembered her. She certainly could not be a day less than seventy now. I recalled her as an energetic,autocratic personality, somewhat inclined to charitable and social notoriety, with a fondness for opening bazaars and playing the Lady Bountiful. She was a most generous woman, and possessed a considerable fortune of her own.

Their country-place, Styles Court, had been purchased by Mr. Cavendish early in their married life. He had been completely under his wife's ascendancy, so much so that, on dying, he left the place to her for her lifetime, as well as the larger part of his income; an arrangement that was distinctly unfair to his two sons. Their stepmother, however, had always been most generous to them; indeed, they were so young at the time of their father's remarriage that they always thought of her as their own mother.

Lawrence, the younger, had been a delicate youth. He had qualiWed as a doctor but early relinquished the profession of medicine, and lived at home while pursuing literary ambitions; though his verses never had any marked success.

John practised for some time as a barrister, but had Wnally settled down to the more congenial life of a country squire. He had married two years ago, and had taken his wife to live at Styles, though I entertained a shrewd suspicion that he would have preferred his mother to increase his allowance, which would have enabled him to have a home of his own. Mrs. Cavendish, however, was a lady who liked to make her own plans, and expected other people to fall in with them, and in this case she certainly had the whip hand, namely: the purse strings.

John noticed my surprise at the news of his mother's remarriage and smiled rather ruefully.

"Rotten little bounder too!" he said savagely. "I can tell you, Hastings, it's making life jolly diYcult for us. As for Evie?you remember Evie?"


"Oh, I suppose she was after your time. She's the mater's factotum, companion, Jack of all trades! A great sport?old Evie! Not precisely young and beautiful, but as game as they make them."

"You were going to say???"

"Oh, this fellow! He turned up from nowhere, on the pretext of being a second cousin or something of Evie's, though she didn't seem particularly keen to acknowledge the relationship. The fellow is an absolute outsider, anyone can see that. He's got a great black beard, and wears patent leather boots in all weathers! But the mater cottoned to him at once, took him on as secretary?you know how she's always running a hundred societies?"

I nodded.

"Well, of course the war has turned the hundreds into thousands. No doubt the fellow was very useful to her. But you could have knocked us all down with a feather when, three months ago, she suddenly announced that she and Alfred were engaged! The fellow must be at least twenty years younger than she is! It's simply bare-faced fortune hunting; but there you are?she is her own mistress, and she's married him."

"It must be a diYcult situation for you all."

"DiYcult! It's damnable!"

Thus it came about that, three days later, I descended from the train at Styles St. Mary, an absurd little station, with no apparent reason for existence, perched up in the midst of green Welds and country lanes. John Cavendish was waiting on the platform, and piloted me out to the car.

"Got a drop or two of petrol still, you see," he remarked. "Mainly owing to the mater's activities."

The village of Styles St. Mary was situated about two miles from the little station, and Styles Court lay a mile the other side of it. It was a still, warm day in early July. As one looked out over the Xat Essex country, lying so green and peaceful under the afternoon sun, it seemed almost impossible to believe that, not so very far away, a great war was running its appointed course. I felt I had suddenly strayed into another world. As we turned in at the lodge gates, John said:

"I'm afraid you'll Wnd it very quiet down here, Hastings."

"My dear fellow, that's just what I want."

"Oh, it's pleasant enough if you want to lead the idle life. I drill with the volunteers twice a week, and lend a hand at the farms. My wife works regularly 'on the land.' She is up at Wve every morning to milk, and keeps at it steadily until lunch-time. It's a jolly good life taking it all round?if it weren't for that fellow Alfred Inglethorp!" He checked the car suddenly, and glanced at his watch. "I wonder if we've time to pick up Cynthia. No, she'll have started from the hospital by now."

"Cynthia! That's not your wife?"

"No, Cynthia is a protégée of my mother's, the daughter of an old schoolfellow of hers, who married a rascally solicitor. He came a cropper, and the girl was left an orphan and penniless. My mother came to the rescue, and Cynthia has been with us nearly two years now. She works in the Red Cross Hospital at Tadminster, seven miles away."

As he spoke the last words, we drew up in front of the Wne old house. A lady in a stout tweed skirt, who was bending over a Xower bed, straightened herself at our approach.

"Hullo, Evie, here's our wounded hero! Mr. Hastings?Miss Howard."

Miss Howard shook hands with a hearty, almost painful, grip. I had an impression of very blue eyes in a sunburnt face. She was a pleasant-looking woman of about forty, with a deep voice, almost manly in its stentorian tones, and had a large sensible square body, with feet to match?these last encased in good thick boots. Her conversation, I soon found, was couched in the telegraphic style.

"Weeds grow like house aWre. Can't keep even with 'em. Shall press you in. Better be careful."

"I'm sure I shall be only too delighted to make myself useful," I responded.

"Don't say it. Never does. Wish you hadn't later."

"You're a cynic, Evie," said John, laughing. "Where's tea to-day?inside or out?"

"Out. Too Wne a day to be cooped up in the house."

"Come on then, you've done enough gardening for to-day. '"The labourer is worthy of his hire,' you know. Come and be refreshed."

"Well," said Miss Howard, drawing oV her gardening gloves, "I'm inclined to agree with you."

She led the way round the house to where tea was spread under the shade of a large sycamore.

A Wgure rose from one of the basket chairs, and came a few steps to meet us.

"My wife, Hastings," said John.

I shall never forget my Wrst sight of Mary Cavendish. Her tall, slender form, outlined against the bright light; the vivid sense of slumbering Wre that seemed to Wnd expression only in those wonderful tawny eyes of hers, remarkable eyes, diVerent from any other woman's that I have ever known; the intense power of stillness she possessed, which nevertheless conveyed the impression of a wild untamed spirit in an exquisitely civilised body?all these things are burnt into my memory. I shall never forget them.

She greeted me with a few words of pleasant welcome in a low clear voice, and I sank into a basket chair feeling distinctly glad that I had accepted John's invitation. Mrs. Cavendish gave me some tea, and her few quiet remarks heightened my Wrst impression of her as a thoroughly fascinating woman. An appreciative listener is always stimulating, and I described, in a humorous manner, certain incidents of my Convalescent Home, in a way which, I Xatter myself, greatly amused my hostess. John, of course, good fellow though he is, could hardly be called a brilliant conversationalist.

At that moment a well remembered voice Xoated through the open French window near at hand:

"Then you'll write to the Princess after tea, Alfred? I'll write to Lady Tadminster for the second day, myself. Or shall we wait until we hear from the Princess? In case of a refusal, Lady Tadminster might open it the Wrst day, and Mrs. Crosbie the second. Then there's the Duchess?about the school fête."

There was the murmur of a man's voice, and then Mrs. Inglethorp's rose in reply:

"Yes, certainly. After tea will do quite well. You are so thoughtful, Alfred dear."

The French window swung open a little wider, and a handsome white-haired old lady, with a somewhat masterful cast of features, stepped out of it on to the lawn. A man followed her, a suggestion of deference in his manner.

Mrs. Inglethorp greeted me with eVusion.

"Why, if it isn't too delightful to see you again, Mr. Hastings, after all these years. Alfred, darling, Mr. Hastings?my husband."

I looked with some curiosity at "Alfred darling." He certainly struck a rather alien note. I did not wonder at John objecting to his beard. It was one of the longest and blackest I have ever seen. He wore gold rimmed pince-nez, and had a curious impassivity of feature. It struck me that he might look natural on a stage, but was strangely out of place in real life. His voice was rather deep and unctuous. He placed a wooden hand in mine and said:

"This is a pleasure, Mr. Hastings." Then, turning to his wife: "Emily dearest, I think that cushion is a little damp."

She beamed fondly on him, as he substituted another with every demonstration of the tenderest care. Strange infatuation of an otherwise sensible woman!

With the presence of Mr. Inglethorp, a sense of constraint and veiled hostility seemed to settle down upon the company. Miss Howard, in particular, took no pains to conceal her feelings. Mrs. Inglethorp, however, seemed to notice nothing unusual. Her volubility, which I remembered of old, had lost nothing in the intervening years, and she poured out a steady Xood of conversation, mainly on the subject of the forthcoming bazaar which she was organizing and which was to take place shortly. Occasionally she referred to her husband over a question of days or dates. His watchful and attentive manner never varied. From the very Wrst I took a Wrm and rooted dislike to him, and I Xatter myself that my Wrst judgments are usually fairly shrewd.

Presently Mrs. Inglethorp turned to give some instructions about letters to Evelyn Howard, and her husband addressed me in his painstaking voice:

"Is soldiering your regular profession, Mr. Hastings?"

"No, before the war I was in Lloyd's."

"And you will return there after it is over?"

"Perhaps. Either that or a fresh start altogether."

Mary Cavendish leant forward.

"What would you really choose as a profession, if you could just consult your inclination?"

"Well, that depends."

"No secret hobby?" she asked. "Tell me?you're drawn to something? Every one is?usually something absurd."

"You'll laugh at me."

She smiled.


"Well, I've always had a secret hankering to be a detective!"

"The real thing?Scotland Yard? Or Sherlock Holmes?"

"Oh, Sherlock Holmes by all means. But really, seriously, I am awfully drawn to it. I came across a man in Belgium once, a very famous detective, and he quite inXamed me. He was a marvellous little fellow. He used to say that all good detective work was a mere matter of method. My system is based on his?though of course I have progressed rather further. He was a funny little man, a great dandy, but wonderfully clever."

"Like a good detective story myself," remarked Miss Howard. "Lots of nonsense written, though. Criminal discovered in last chapter. Every one dumfounded. Real crime?you'd know at once."

"There have been a great number of undiscovered crimes," I argued.

"Don't mean the police, but the people that are right in it. The family. You couldn't really hoodwink them. They'd know."

"Then," I said, much amused, "you think that if you were mixed up in a crime, say a murder, you'd be able to spot the murderer right oV?"

"Of course I should. Mightn't be able to prove it to a pack of lawyers. But I'm certain I'd know. I'd feel it in my Wnger-tips if he came near me."

"It might be a 'she,' " I suggested.

"Might. But murder's a violent crime. Associate it more with a man."

"Not in a case of poisoning." Mrs. Cavendish's clear voice startled me. "Dr. Bauerstein was saying yesterday that, owing to the general ignorance of the more uncommon poisons among the medical profession, there were probably countless cases of poisoning quite unsuspected."

"Why, Mary, what a gruesome conversation!" cried Mrs. Inglethorp. "It makes me feel as if a goose were walking over my grave. Oh, there's Cynthia!"

A young girl in V.A.D. uniform ran lightly across the lawn.

"Why, Cynthia, you are late to-day. This is Mr. Hastings?Miss Murdoch."

Cynthia Murdoch was a fresh-looking young creature, full of life and vigour. She tossed oV her little V.A.D. cap, and I admired the great loose waves of her auburn hair, and the smallness and whiteness of the hand she held out to claim her tea. With dark eyes and eyelashes she would have been a beauty.

She Xung herself down on the ground beside John, and as I handed her a plate of sandwiches she smiled up at me.

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Tana French
“Reading a perfectly plotted Agatha Christie is like crunching into a perfect apple: that pure, crisp, absolute satisfaction.”

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Mysterious Affair at Styles: A Hercule Poirot Mystery (Agatha Christie Collection) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
kren250 More than 1 year ago
I'm embarrassed to admit that, prior to reading this book, I had never read anything by Agatha Christie. Last week, PBS featured one of her books on their Masterpiece Mystery show, and I thought it was very well done. My interest was piqued as to whether the books were as good as the show. I decided to start with her very first book published, rather than start with a later book and run the risk of encountering spoilers. So, I requested The Mysterious Affair at Styles from my library, and hoped for the best. I was not disappointed! One big plus to The Mysterious Affair at Styles is that the culprit is not obvious. At the end of the book, I was just as surprised as the characters to learn who the murderer was, and what had happened. It was refreshing not to have it be predictable. I also like that the reader is given lots of clues along the way, to try and piece things together. The book moves quick enough that you don't get bored, yet provides plenty of details and complex characters. I definitely plan on reading more by Christie, if this book is any indication to what the rest of her mysteries are like.
bolgai More than 1 year ago
The first time I read The Mysterious Affair At Styles... Well, I can't even remember the first time I read it so recently decided to re-read the book that was the beginning of Agatha Christie's wonderful career. It has a great reputation and it was probably completely amazing for its time (otherwise it wouldn't have been as successful as it was) but to me it was little more than Agatha Christie starting out, testing her pen, coming into her own. The writing isn't as precise and engaging and Poirot is more exuberance than method but this mystery already has the elements I've come to expect from her work: the detective's presence is more serendipity than anything else, there's a rather large cast of characters and if you dig deep enough every one of them has a motive but none of them actually had the opportunity to commit the crime (not at first glance anyway), and the culprit is not at all the person you've suspected. As different as Poirot may have been in this book from his later appearances he was ultimately my favorite part of this story. Because of his lack of reserve in his interactions with the English, his status of a refugee, even how stumped he was as for the identity of the murderer made him much more endearing than when he gradually transformed into an infallible force of intellect who always keeps his cards to his chest in the later books. I also liked his role in the human element of this story when he attended to the personal lives of some of the characters as a side project during his investigation. What can I say, the man cared and I like seeing that in fiction! All in all this is a good debut novel and although because of the writing I can't give it more than 3 stars I believe that if one decides to read all of Christie's novels the way I have one might as well start at the beginning and watch the master perfect her craft.
GerryT More than 1 year ago
This is where it started. Originally published in 1920, this is Christie's first novel and featured the debut of Hercule Poirot and friend Hastings. A harbinger of things to come, this is an intiguing blend of characters and plot that keep you guessing and reading. Any fan of the genre and author will love it. Sure this will lead the reader to Christie's other novels, many of which I have now read. Highly recommended reading.
MysteryWriter222 More than 1 year ago
This is Agatha Christie's first ever published novel. This is where all the magic started! I am a huge Agatha fan and will reccomend her to anyone. If you are interested in reading a book by Agatha Christie but don't know where to start -she has so many! - I suggest starting from the beginning with this book. It is captivating, intriguing and certainly keeps you guessing. It's got drama, thrill and excitement. Great characters, wonderful plot - this book has it all. Once of my all time favorite books. I espcially like this new hardback cover. They took a bunch of her books and re-did the covers in these brilliant bright colors that really catch your eye. I have collected all of them =) Wonderful book that I think anyone could enjoy. Agatha is a literary genius that doesn't disappoint. Enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is Agatha Christie's first published mystery. Here she introduces us to Inspector Hercule Poirot, who's very methodical in putting together all the pieces of evidence of the crime; that of the poisoning of the wealthy Mrs. Emily Inglethorp in her locked bedroom. This book is the start of many great murder mysteries with the eccentric Hercule Poirot. Very much worth reading!
Ryan_G More than 1 year ago
When I had decided to read every Agatha Christie mystery I was just going to go about it willy-nilly, read them as I got them with no regard for publishing order. However, when I posted I was doing this on the Mystery board at the Barnes & Noble book club site it was suggested I go about it a little differently. Becke and Dulcinea both convinced me the only way to do this right was to read them in order because several of the reoccurring characters age throughout the books. I wisely bowed to their wisdom and changed up my game plane a bit. Now I had a slow start to my self challenge but I finally finished the first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Now this was a book I had read several times but this time I tried to read the book as if it was my first time through. This was a lot harder than I originally thought it would be. I believe I managed to do a OK job at it though and here are a few of my thoughts. This is not only the first mystery novel Agatha Christie published, it is also the first appearance of the famous Hercule Poirot. Monsieur Poirot and his "little gray cells" went on to star in over 30 novels and over 50 short stories. Leaving out everything else I have read with him in it I came away still liking this strange overly pompous, egotistical man. The man is cunning and so sure of himself he is willing to take risks with other peoples lives in order to produce the outcome he desires. I have always found myself fascinated by a man who is described in this book as "hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible. I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound." This description was given by Arthur Hastings who is narrating the book. Colonel Hastings would appear regularly throughout Hercule Poirot's career as a Watson like character. Poirot's reasoning and skills of observation are wonderful to watch play out as he solves the case. This is also the first appearance of Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard. Not much is revealed about him in this book other than he had previously worked with Poirot and has full trust in him. I loved the book and recommend if to anyone who has never read a Agatha Christie book. This is a good taste of what she has to offer as a story teller. In this book as in her others, the clues are always there for you to spot and there are never any surprises. One of the characters from this book, Evelyn Howard, describes the way bad writing in mystery novels so often goes "Lots of nonsense written....criminal discovered in last chapter. Every one dumbfounded." This is not the case for Agatha Christie books, the killer is always there to spot if you are as clever as Hercule Poirot. This is the plot synopsis from the publisher of the edition I read (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers) Set in Essex in the English countryside. The Mysterious Affair at Styles is one of the great classic murder mysteries. The victim, Mrs. Emily Inglethorp, is the wealthy mistress of Styles Court. After an evening of entertaining family and guest, she is found poisoned in her locked bedroom. The long list of suspects includes her gold-digging new husband, her stepsons, her best female friend, and a visiting doctor. As
Anonymous 5 months ago
I love books written about Mr. Hercule Polrot!!
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Skeetor More than 1 year ago
The first major publication of Agatha Christie. This particular edition of the first Poirot mystery includes a bit about how the book came about along with some original work that was changed prior to publication.
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The first of Agatha Christie's books and the first of the Hercule Poirot mysteries it is a beautifully written book that proves why she is the best selling author in history only next to the bible and Shakespeare. If you have read any of her books you know that they all have very similar story lines. A bunch of people come together there is a murder and then someone tries to solve it who knows much more about what's going on then anyone else in the story or the reader except of course the murderer. The characters are all incredibly well written and have a realness rarely seen in murder mysteries. The main character here is Hastings who is incredibly likable, We want him to prevail and to solve the murder before any one else does, including Poirot. When we meet Poirot we find him to be an old man past his prime who must be listened to but not necessarily believed. But as the story goes on we of course find that we should have believed him at every turn and that he was only trying to lead us in the right direction without tipping off the killer. Always a fun quick read I would recommend any of Dame Christie's books without any hesitation.
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I loved the book, but there wasn't chapter 13 to completely finish the story