The Mysterious Affair at Styles

  • Hercule Poirot
  • Novel
  • 1920

Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was the result of a dare from her sister Madge who challenged her to write a story. The story begins when Hastings is sent back to England from the First World War due to injury and is invited to spend his sick leave at the beautiful Styles Court by his old friend John Cavendish. Here, Hastings meets John’s step-mother, Mrs Inglethorp, and her new husband, Alfred. Despite the tranquil surroundings Hastings begins to realise that all is not right. When Mrs Inglethorp is found poisoned, suspicion falls on the family, and another old friend, Hercule Poirot, is invited to investigate.

Read an extract

Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely.

Hercule Poirot

More about this story

Christie started writing the novel while she was volunteering in Torquay hospital dispensary during World War I. Her knowledge of medicines from this role resulted in poison naturally becoming the murder method used in her debut novel. After being rejected by six publishers, the manuscript for The Mysterious Affair at Styles was finally accepted by John Lane and The Bodley Head four years after its completion.

The story was first adapted for television in 1990 and transmitted on ITV in the UK as a special episode to celebrate Agatha Christie’s centenary year. David Suchet starred as Hercule Poirot and Hugh Fraser as Hastings as part of the series Agatha Christie’s Poirot. In 2005 the novel was adapted as a five-part serial for BBC Radio 4 in the UK with John Moffatt playing the role of Hercule Poirot.

Though this may be the first published book of Miss Agatha Christie, she betrays the cunning of an old hand.
The New York Times Book Review

The dust jacket of the facsimile book edition references the legend of how Christie started writing: ‘This novel was originally written as the result of a bet, that the author, who had previously never written a book could not compose a detective novel in which the reader would not be able to ‘spot’ the murderer, though having access to the same clues as the detective.’

Will you be able to solve the mystery before Hercule Poirot does?

Did you know?

  1. It is in this first novel of Agatha Christie’s that we first encounter Hercule Poirot, who was inspired by the Belgian refugees from the First World War who had settled in her hometown of Torquay at the time it was written.

  2. Agatha Christie and her first husband Archie called their house Styles after The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

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