Title: The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
Author: Agatha Christie.
Genre: Literature, fiction, detective fiction, mystery.
Publication Date: 1920.
Summary: With impeccable timing Hercule Poirot, the renowned Belgian detective, marks his dramatic entrance on to the English crime stage. Recently, there had been some strange goings on at Styles St. Mary. Evelyn, constant companion to old Mrs Inglethorp, has stormed out of the house umuttetring something about "a lot of sharks." Her presence had spelt security; now the air seems rife with suspicion and evil. And when a murder takes place, and all within and around the family fall under suspicion, a shattered coffee cup, a splash of candle grease, and a bed of begonias are all Poirot requires to display his now legendary powers of detection.
My rating: 7.5/10.
♥ I shall never forget my first sight of Mary Cavendish. Her tall, slender form, outlined against the bright light; the vivid sense of slumbering fire that seemed to find expression only in those wonderful tawny eyes of hers, remarkable eyes, different from any other woman's that I have ever known; the intense power of stillness she possessed, which nevertheless conveyed the impression of a wild untamed spirit in an exquisitely civilized body - all these things are burnt into my memory. I shall never forget them.
♥ Poirot was an extraordinary-looking little man. He was hardly more than five feet four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandified little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police. As a detective, his flair had been extraordinary, and he had achieved triumphs by unravelling some of the most baffling cases of the day.
♥ Alas, that these harmonious moments can never endure!
♥ "Ah!" Poirot shook his forefinger so fiercely at me that I quailed before it. "Beware! Peril to the detective who says: 'It is so small - it does not matter. It will not agree. I will forget it.' That way lies confusion! Everything matters."
♥ "Blood tells - always remember that - blood tells."
♥ "Now your help may be very valuable to me. I will tell you why. Because, in all this house of mourning, yours are the only eyes that have wept."
Miss Howard blinked, and a new note crept into the gruffness of her voice.
"If you mean that I was fond of her - yes, I was. You know, Emily was a selfish old woman in her way. She was very generous, but she always wanted a return. She never let people forget what she had done for them - and, that way, she missed love. Don't think she ever realized it, though, or felt the lack of it. Hope not, anyway. I was on a different footing. I took my stand from the first. 'So many pounds a year I'm worth to you. Well and good. But not a penny piece besides - not a pair of gloves, nor a theatre ticket.' She didn't understand - was very offended sometimes. Said I was foolishly proud. I wasn't that - but I couldn't explain. Anyway, I kept my self-respect. And so, out of the whole bunch, I was the only one who could allow myself to be fond of her. I watched over her. I guarded her from the lot of them."
♥ "Do you think it would be such a disaster if they did meet?"
"Well, don't you?" I said, rather taken aback.
"No." She was smiling in her quiet way. "I should like to see a good flare up. It would clear the air. At present we are all thinking so much, and saying so little."
♥ "You gave too much rein to your imagination. Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely."
♥ "Everything must be taken into account. If the fact will not fit the theory - let the theory go."
♥ "Yes, he is intelligent. But we must be more intelligent. We must be so intelligent that he does not suspect us of being intelligent at all."
♥ There are times when it is one's duty to assert oneself.
♥ "Mr Hastings - you are always so kind, and you know such a lot."
It struck me at this moment that Cynthia was really a very charming girl! Much more charming than Mary, who never said things of that kind.
♥ She paused a long time, and said at last:
"Perhaps - because I want to be - free!"
And, as she spoke, I had a sudden vision of broad spaces, virgin tracts of forests, untrodden lands - and a realization of what freedom would mean to such a nature as Mary Cavendish. I seemed to see her for a moment as she was, a proud wild creature, as untamed by civilization as some shy bird of the hills.
♥ "But John! My old friend John!"
"Every murderer is probably somebody's old friend," observed Poirot philosophically. "You cannot mix up sentiment and reason."
♥ Still frowning, he went across to the desk and took out a small pack of patience cards. Then he drew up a chair to the table, and to my utter amazement, began solemnly to build card houses!
My jaw dropped involuntarily, and he said at once:
"No, mon ami, I am not in my second childhood! I steady my nerves, that is all. This employment requires precision of the fingers. With precision of the fingers goes precision of the brain."
♥ "Do you mean that you could have saved John Cavendish from being brought to trial?"
"Yes, my friend. But I eventually decided in favour of "a woman's happiness". Nothing but the great danger through which they have passed could have brought these two proud souls together."
I looked at Poirot in silent amazement. The colossal cheek of the little man! Who on earth but Poirot would have thought of a trial for murder as a restorer of conjugal happiness!
"I perceive your thoughts, mon ami," said Poirot, smiling at me. "No one but Hercule Poirot would have attempted such a thing! And you are wrong in condemning it. The happiness of one man and woman is the greatest thing in all the world."
♥ I sighed.
"What is it, mon ami?"
"Nothing," I said sadly. "They are two delightful women!"
"And neither of them is for you?" finished Poirot. "Never mind. Console yourself, my friend. We may hunt together again, who knows? And then - "