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The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot, #1)
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Poirot Buddy Reads > Unofficial Poirot Buddy Read: Poirot 1 SPOILER THREAD: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

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Jessica | 362 comments Upon Request a spoiler thread!
Please go on right ahead, I will come back here when I am ready for it ;-)

Just to be clear this is the book we're discussing here The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Roman Clodia | 758 comments This is a re-read for me, only on p.21 but I remember it quite vividly.

I giggled at the tongue-in-cheek way Hastings introduces Poirot before he knows that he's actually here in the village: 'My system [of detection] is based on his - though of course I have progressed rather further.' !!!

Also the reason for everyone's dislike of Alfred: 'He's got a great black beard, and wears patent leather boots in all weathers!' Hahaha!

I hadn't remembered that Evie was only 'about forty'. And I wonder why all those men aren't serving in the war? Hastings, we know, has been invalided out and the sinister doctor is also recuperating - but the two brothers? Alfred, I assume, is too old.

Roman Clodia | 758 comments Oh, and happy new year to all!

Susan | 9637 comments Mod
Thanks, RC. Couldn't resist the spoiler thread after all!

Could the men have escaped fighting as they had a farm attached the house, I wonder? I know lots of those big houses happily sent tenants and servants to fight, but, presumably they were in charge of the land and farming would have been an essential service? That's just a guess, I have no real idea. However, John was 45 and men 18-40 were conscripted, so he was too old.

I loved the Hastings bit too :) Ha ha!

Robin There is another Christie novel where the farmer does have to stay to farm, so that could have been the case here.

I agree with the way in which Christie so swiftly developed her characters, with Hasting's comments being so typical, and to be carried through, sometimes in a more subtle form, every time he appears in a novel.

I thought that Evie was developed as such an unromantic character, making it easy to forget her age - and that Mrs Inglethorp was so much older than her husband and Evie. So clever of Christie - clues everywhere but so well hidden behind the reader's prejudices and Christie's details.

Roman Clodia | 758 comments I'm sure you're both right about John and the farm. I have to say that I struggled to see Mary as a 'land girl' - she's so patrician!

Roman Clodia | 758 comments Did anyone think Poirot was particularly Holmesian in this? The way he got down onto his hands and knees and crawled around the floor looking for clues in the bedroom.

message 8: by Susan (last edited Jan 02, 2018 10:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Susan | 9637 comments Mod
Yes, he is obviously not a fully formed character yet - although there is a sense that he is a 'real person' already and Hastings is delightful. I know some people struggle with Hastings, but I've always liked him as a character.

Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
Hastings is a favorite with me a well. He's a great foil for Poirot.

Betsy | 170 comments I'm also a fan of Hastings. He may not be Poirot, but that's such a bad thing either.

message 11: by Jill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1949 comments Yes, I think Hastings compliments Poirot well

Jessica | 362 comments It's almost like a "bromance" between the two of them! ;-)

At least in this book Hastings is a very comical, yet totally unreliable narrator! You get his impressions and you know they are incorrect. He desires Mary, and is obsessed with how much better he is than John. Cynthia gets a proposal out of the blue, and Poirot... has obviously lost his wits! Hilarious! (As I'm a Poirot Rookie I am unaware how Hasting's role might be in other books.)

Susan | 9637 comments Mod
Good to hear there is lots of love for Hastings out there :)

Roman Clodia | 758 comments I just finished this last night - Poirot's motivations around the John/Mary final developments were just *outrageous*! He's a bit more subtle in later books, I think, about his penchant for young lovers (well, not so young here) but in need of a Cupid figure all the same.

message 15: by Jill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1949 comments It is amazing really that with all the predudice against foreigners at this time, this little Belgian man was taken to the hearts of the readers. Christie was very clever to pitch him just right, eccentric, but likeable.

Robin Possibly Belgium was in a special position? I have seen the phrase, 'brave little Belgium' in other books, for example. And Poirot always makes sure he is not seen as French.

Betsy | 170 comments 'Brave little Belgium' refers to its precarious position during WWI when all but a small sliver of the country was occupied by Germany. The land and its people definitely suffered for four years so perhaps Poirot was given the benefit of the doubt, especially since Britain ostensibly went to war because of Belgium's neutrality.

Robin Yes, this fits with my perception. Also, the French detective in Murder on the Links possibly the next for this topic? fares badly in comparison with Poirot.

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments I think that Poirot was accepted based on Hasting's glowing praise of his abilities. Though, the family did know of Poirot already, and thought him a "dear" man, as I recall.

Robin Jill very perceptively also refers to the readers acceptance of Poirot. There must have been something going on in British, and indeed, further afield, that overcame the racism that might have been expected. It is this that I was referring to.

message 21: by Jill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1949 comments Thanks Robin. I was referring to the readers. As Christie decided to make him a foreigner, choosing a Belgian over any other nationality was a good idea of hers.

Susan | 9637 comments Mod
Do you think Christie regretted making Poirot Belgian in later years? I mean that everyone when the book was published would have been sympathetic and admiring of Belgian, but by the 1960's, perhaps it was not so obvious? Actually, Poirot often had to point out that he was not French in other books, didn't he?

Mark Pghfan | 362 comments I don't think she regretted making him Belgian, but I guess she regretted making him so annoyingly (to her anyway) fussy. She refers to this through Mrs. Oliver describing her Finn detective, in Mrs. McGinty's Dead.

Susan | 9637 comments Mod
Betsy wrote: "I doubt that Christie regretted it because it gave Poirot a unique quality that being French would not have. I'm sure Poirot felt superior to all--even if secretly--and being Belgian was part of it..."

I don't Poirot felt the need to be secretive about his feelings of superiority, Betsy. That's isn't a criticism, by the way, I adore Poirot, he's my favourite fictional detective :)

Susan | 9637 comments Mod
Betsy wrote: "I just think he wouldn't be blatant about the feelings since he does 'work' for his clients and they pay him. In this case discretion might be a good idea. Most people don't like to feel belittled ..."

He also obviously felt a debt towards Mrs Inglethorpe, which was quite touching. She never really came alive as a character, which is typical of victims in many GA books, but you had the sense there was not too much grief about her death. Yet Poirot was determined that she should be avenged, but that he also had to consider her feelings towards the members of her family and her husband. I think Poirot's sensitive side is often ignored, but it was there.

Robin I agree about the sensitive side. His support for romance, and sympathy when a person is keen on the wrong person or whose love interest prefers another is apparent in many of the books. He is also determined to ensure that right is done. Sometimes he takes cases for no payment. When he is paid, his success is such that the fact he is working for someone is of little note.

message 27: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
I've finished this now and enjoyed it a lot once I got into it properly.

I found Hastings very funny - I hadn't realised Poirot's 'Watson' would be so young, in this first book anyway. He aIso doesn't seem to be very intellectual - I imagined him a bit like Bertie Wooster! Hard to remember that the character is supposed to be just back from WW1, as he seems so lighthearted.

I enjoyed this bit:

"We must be so intelligent that he does not suspect us of being intelligent at all."
I acquiesced.
"There, mon ami, you will be of great assistance to me."
I was pleased with the compliment. There had been times when I hardly thought that Poirot appreciated me at my true worth."

Tracey | 246 comments Judy - I imagined Hastings to be like Bertie Wooster too! I wonder if his character develops into something more serious? I shall have to read on in the series.

I'm a pharmacist, so found the insight into pharmacy at the time quite fascinating. Imagine anyone being able to buy strychnine to kill a dog at your local pharmacy, with only a signature in the poisons register required, and to be able to do it wearing a false beard! Also the frequency of people taking bromide powders in Golden age books gives an indication of how widespread these drugs were being used (they are mentioned again in my current read Poison in Jest). The strychnine precipitation had me revising some chemistry, which is no bad thing.

I've read very little Christie, but really enjoyed this. There were plenty of red herrings, and I suspected everyone but the actual murderers. Looking foward to reading more.

message 29: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8607 comments Mod
Tracey wrote: "Also the frequency of people taking bromide powders in Golden age books gives an indication of how widespread these drugs were being used ..."

Yes, sleeping draughts etc seem to be incredibly common in GA books, I agree.

Glad I'm not alone on the Bertie Wooster comparison, Tracey!

Sandy | 2634 comments Mod
Tracey, Christie had pharmacy experience so knew her poisons. I forget where this came up, but it is something I learned because of this group.

Jessica | 362 comments As a Dutch person, I feel that we also feel a very distinct need to distinguish ourselves from the Dutch-speaking Belgians (and vice versa). Perhaps it is a touch of nationalism at play here, where the French-speaking Belgians just want to make sure they are not mistaken to be French.

Jessica | 362 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "This is a re-read for me, only on p.21 but I remember it quite vividly.

I giggled at the tongue-in-cheek way Hastings introduces Poirot before he knows that he's actually here in the village: 'My..."

Following up with the observation by Roman Clodia about all the man hanging about whilst the war is going on! I think it adds a bit rightful shadiness, what are they all doing there? It is not explained in the book, I think. Are they unqualified to fight? Or have they shirked responsibility? Only Hasting's is officially on leave. I think it makes the men purposefully suspicious.

Elizabeth (Alaska) Coming late to the party. This, from my review:

Hastings is so funny, as he thinks Poirot has lost his edge and that he, Hastings, is far more able to solve the murder. One wonders if Poirot's ego has rubbed off on him - at least Poirot deserves his estimate of his own aptitude, whereas it is impossible to understand Hastings' view of himself.

In another conversation, I commented that I think Hastings is the perfect foil for Poirot. I have never read any of the series with Bertie Wooster, though some of my friends most certainly have.

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