Sunday, 1 February 2015

Hercule Poirot: From Start to Finish

As an avid reader of Agatha Christie, I just had to pick up one of her most famous novels The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Then later on, my boyfriend got me Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case – a book I have deliberately skipped as I wanted to postpone reading *his* last book for as long as I could. However, sooner or later I had to face it, and I preferred to know how it all ends, anyway.
I thought it would be best to write a post dedicated to both of those books as they make up a whole circle, starting with Christie’s first novel starring the little Belgian detective, and going all the way to his last case.

“Everything must be taken into account. If the fact will not fit the theory---let the theory go.”

The Mysterious Affair at Styles is a masterpiece – great writing combined with a superb twist, this is Agatha still at her beginning. In her very first novel, Agatha Christie introduces some of her most infamous characters: Hercule Poirot, Hastings and Inspector Japp. A dynamic trio that will go on to solve a lot more mysteries together (Poirot will do most of the solving of course, and Hastings will do most of the confusion). Here, Agatha Christie also presents another element that often occurs in her stories – strychnine poisoning.

 As for the Affair at Styles in particular, the mystery is around Emily Inglethorp’s murder. Everyone’s main suspect is her younger husband, Alfred, but of course her household is full of people, so naturally deep down everyone could be suspicious of everyone. There are her two stepsons, John and Lawrence Cavendish, John’s wife Mary, young Cynthia Murdoch, and Emily’s companion Evelyn Howard. At the time of the murder, Hastings also stays in the Styles manor as a guest to his old friend John, while Hercule Poirot enters the scene as Belgian refugee (the book is set during World War I).
The story grabs you from the very first page as usually with a Christie novel – the clues keep coming and Hastings keeps getting excited after each one of them. Of course, Poirot is always a step ahead everyone else. Keep reading, the murderer might surprise you.

“Everyone is a potential murderer-in everyone there arises from time to time the wish to kill-though not the will to kill.”

In my opinion, Curtain is even better. By this time, Christie is already a very well-known author, her writing is more confident and her style has turned into an epitome of her name. A signature murder mystery, this one raises a lot of questions about the mind of a murderer, grips the reader, and makes him question everything he has read so far. Every chapter brings new possibilities, for every person, indeed, could be a murderer.  

In his last ever case, Hercule Poirot is back at Styles. So is Hastings. And to both of them the house is full of memories – not just memories of a murder, but memories of their younger years and with that of their younger selves. If there is one strong feeling about this book it is that of nostalgia, and nothing strikes the reader quite as hard as Hastings’ very last description of his old friend that starts like this: “Nothing is so sad, in my opinion, as the devastation wrought by age. My poor friend. I have described him many times. Now to convey to you the difference….”

The guests staying at Styles are, yet again, quite a versatile bunch. This time round we have Norton, Mr Allerton, Miss Cole, Doctor Franklin and his wife Barbara, Nurse Craven, Colonel Luttrell and his wife Daisy, Boyd-Carrington, and to top it off even Hasting’s daughter, Judith. But what brought us to Styles one more time? Poirot called on Hastings as he believes that one of the people staying in the house is an experienced, five-time murderer. What we do not know is which one, and as the murders start, the question needs to get its answer fast.

As I previously said, Curtain gets pretty nostalgic as Hastings reminiscences his live, his times with Poirot, and their old cases. Soon the nostalgia and melancholy grow into a generally sad feeling. Poirot’s last case is among the saddest Agatha Christie books – especially if you have grown to be quite attached to her Belgian detective. Quite honestly, Curtain is simply heart breaking…

I do recommend reading both of those books but make sure you read Curtain after you have read quite some number of Poirot’s other cases as it is better to have some general idea of his character and his previous work. After all, you have to meet Hercule first before you ever get the chance to say goodbye to him. 


  1. Oh, I read The Orient Express one and I did completely love it! I was the whole book thinking and trying to guess who the murderer is until it gets to a surprising end... Have you read it? Also, I had been looking for more Agatha Christies ones, so thanks for the recommendations! With love,

  2. Hey! Yes, actually Murder on the Orient Express is one of my favourite ones! I definitely did not see it coming at all haha
    Oh, I would also recommend Cat among the Pigeons and After the Funeral - I adore those two! xx