Agatha Christie introduces the world to her detective extraordinaire Hercule Poirot in this ‘cozy mystery’ classic.
Read alsoMrs McGinty’s Dead (Poirot)
An old widow is brutally killed in the parlour of her cottage… Mrs McGinty died from a brutal blow to the back of her head. Suspicion fell immediately on her shifty lodger, James Bentley, whose clothes revealed traces of the victim’s blood and hair. Yet something was amiss: Bentley just didn’t look like a murderer. Poirot believed he could save…
‘Styles’ was Christie's first published novel, introducing not only the Belgian super-sleuth but also Inspector (later, Chief Inspector) Japp, and Arthur Hastings. When we first meet Poirot, a Belgian refugee of the Great War, he is settling in England near the home of Emily Cavendish, who helped him to his new life. His friend Hastings arrives as a guest at her home. When a woman is killed, Poirot uses his detective skills to solve the mystery.
The Times Literary Supplement (3 February 1921) gave the book an enthusiastic, if short, review, which stated: "The only fault this story has is that it is almost too ingenious." It went on to describe the basic set-up of the plot and concluded: "It is said to be the author's first book, and the result of a bet about the possibility of writing a detective story in which the reader would not be able to spot the criminal. Every reader must admit that the bet was won."
The New York Times Book Review (26 December 1920), was also impressed: “Though this may be the first published book of Miss Agatha Christie, she betrays the cunning of an old hand ... You must wait for the last-but-one chapter in the book for the last link in the chain of evidence that enabled Mr. Poirot to unravel the whole complicated plot and lay the guilt where it really belonged. And 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 solution and will most certainly never lay down this most entertaining book.”
The story is told in the first person by Hastings, and features many of the elements that have become icons of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, largely due to Christie's influence. It is set in a large, isolated country manor. There are a half-dozen suspects, most of whom are hiding facts about themselves. The plot includes a number of red herrings and surprise twists.