Thursday, January 31, 2013

Stella Reviews: The Mysterious Affair At Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie

Stella Reviews:  The Mysterious Affair At Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie 

The famous case that launched the career of Hercule Poirot. When a wealthy heiress is murdered, Poirot steps out of retirement to find the killer. As the master detective makes his way through the list of suspects, he finds the solution in an elaborately planned scheme almost impossible to believe.

So my friend Julia told me that it is not necessary to read EVERY Agatha Christie book in order. Which, when you think about it makes sense. Most mystery books are like that; they move from one case to the next, leaving the thinnest thread to remind loyal readers about what has happened before.

But, I guess I'm OCD like that. Not to start on the first book?! -eye twitch-

So like the obedient little robot, I followed the order the books were published in...Here's what I thought. -gavel sound-

So the story takes place at the Styles Manor with a family of rich people. The heiress is poisoned in her bedroom and a partially destroyed will is discovered. In a small town in the country side, you can imagine how scandalous this murder is, especially since the dead heiress has recently remarried.

Just hearing a synopsis like that brings to mind crazy rich Wall Street people working in the shadows, sweeping secrets underneath rugs. While this story didn't involve hired hit-teams plotting to kill an old lady, it did have elements of back-stabbing, gossiping and framing involved. You can feel how on edge every character is because most of them have secrets of their own. I thoroughly enjoyed the intensity of this novel and it certainly kept me guessing as to who the culprit is.

It's also worth noting how well Agatha Christie kept almost all of the characters relevant. There are a bunch of the maids and gardeners who only had one line to say but most character kept reappearing throughout the story.

But, this constant cast of characters can also bring about some not so positive feelings about this book. It would certainly have helped my reading experience if the book provided a character list. Who are you and how are you related to the other characters. The sons and new husband of the dead heiress were quite easy to remember but after that, who was who's wife and who was who's ward...I didn't know. I remember having to search this book on Wikipedia and read through their character descriptions. This would be the main reason I put this book down for over half a year, by which when I picked it back up again, I had to do another round of character-mapping before I understood the whole picture. A nice relationship charts or family tree would have done the job, just saying.

The last thing to keep in mind is that this book is old. Like, your mom old (just kidding). We no longer describe someone as someone's ward. A pharmacist is called a chemist. Some of these words you can guess but it sure take more effort when it comes to reading it.

So even though I enjoy the thrilling mystery and complex web of clues, the lack of flow (due to diction) and confusing characters within the story left me feeling unsatisfied. But I will continue to read more from Agatha...and yes. Next will be #2, not a random number in the series. ;)

I also wanted to comment on Poirot and Hastings since they are the main and supporting characters to this series. But I find their resemblance to Holmes and Watson takes away from what I have to say about them. And this review is edging on the "UGH-this-review-is-so-long-I-will-just-see-how-many-stars-she-gave" length. So... -gavel sound-

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