Rebecca's Reviews > The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
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Oct 03, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: mystery
Read in October, 2011

I'd meant to read some of the legendary Christie, and picked this one somewhat at random. I'm not sure if some of her other work is stronger, but I was not particularly impressed.

I'd read somewhere once that Christie was not certain of the solution to the mystery herself when she started writing a novel. If this is true, it shows. There are red herrings that lead nowhere, and damning evidence that appears, as best as I can figure out, in the paragraph before its solution is explained. The final twist is hopelessly contrived and revealed in a multi-paged monologue by Poirot, whose presence had begun to wear rather thin. I understand why he says so little of what he knows, both to keep the reader in suspense and because the narrator is a complete moron who can't be trusted. But it grew very tiresome. Holmes often does the same, but somehow it's never quite as grating.

Also grating is the classism woven throughout the book. I realize it's a product of the times, but it's still discomforting. All the servants and townspeople are hopelessly ignorant (although frequently cunning). They're described in terms that almost verge on bestial - a pretty girl who only smiles at them has a "vivid wicked little face", a "aged rustic" "leered at me cunningly", a maid is repeatedly called a "fine specimen", a gardener actually twists his hat over and over in his hands.

One thing I did quite appreciate is the unreliableness of the narrator, who fancies himself to be much more clever than he is. His misunderstandings of Poirot's gentle needling are genuinely amusing.

The ending does work, kinda. If you like twists, this has lots. But I thought they were poorly planned and poorly revealed.
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