At the invitation of his old friend John Cavendish, Captain Arthur Hastings is spending his leave at Cavendish’s home, Styles. While visiting the nearby village he bumps into his old friend Hercule Poirot. a well-known detective in his home of Belgium, but now an unfortunate refugee as a result of the war. When, in the early hours of the morning Cavendish’s stepmother, Mrs Inglethorp, dies from strychnine poisoning, Hastings turns to Poirot to use his “little grey cells” for a discreet inquiry.
With the upcoming The Mysterious Affair at Styles extravaganza being held over at The Invisible Event in July, I figured it was a good time to read it before the spoilers set in. Why does he have to keep picking books that are sitting on my TBR shelf?!! And to keep from spoiling the upcoming spoilers, I’ll be leaving the in-depth review to the team of JJ, Moira, and Brad.
So…I think I will discuss one thing here. The thing that I found, quite to my surprise, from what I’ve seen in reading some of the many reviews of TMAaS, drives some people crazy—in a word—Hastings. He is described by some as amiable, affable, innocent, and lovable. But there are those, on the dark net of book reviews, who find him slow, obtuse, clueless, hapless, and downright boring!
I happen to love that Christie came up with such an interesting interpretation of the Watson character. Hastings is charming, good-natured, and humorous. He has “always had a secret hankering to be a detective” yet he is so easily led astray—by his emotions and the clues. By having Poirot’s investigation unfold through Hastings, who is not privy to the detective’s inner thoughts, Christie makes good use of all those characteristics as a source of misdirection. The result is, through inattention, misinterpretation or lack of insight, Hastings finds himself drawn into, and sometimes even creating, the red herrings Christie needs dropped at various times in the story.
‘So you think that the coco—mark well what I say, Hastings, the coco—contained strychnine?’
‘Of course! That salt on the tray, what else could it have been?’
‘It might have been salt,’ replied Poirot placidly.”
Ah, poor Hastings.
Oh, right, almost forgot…the story, mystery, and Poirot himself were all superb. Poirot’s first case was a definite winner for me!
My Judgment – 4.25/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2013 Scattergories – #30 Serial Killers: 18 part serialization in the Times Weekly Edition from February to June 1920