A wealthy widow is murdered at an estate in England and her step-sons and new husband are at the same time suspects and possible beneficiaries of her will. It is up to the Belgian detective Ercule Poirot to not only determine who the murderer is but also how he managed to kill a woman in a room locked from the inside. This just might be the case he won't be able to crack.
The first time I read The Mysterious Affair At Styles... Well, I can't even remember the first time I read it so recently decided to re-read the book that was the beginning of Agatha Christie's wonderful career. It has a great reputation and it was probably completely amazing for its time (otherwise it wouldn't have been as successful as it was) but to me it was little more than Agatha Christie starting out, testing her pen, coming into her own. The writing isn't as precise and engaging and Poirot is more exuberance than method but this mystery already has the elements I've come to expect from her work: the detective's presence is more serendipity than anything else, there's a rather large cast of characters and if you dig deep enough every one of them has a motive but none of them actually had the opportunity to commit the crime (not at first glance anyway), and the culprit is not at all the person you've suspected.
As different as Poirot may have been in this book from his later appearances he was ultimately my favorite part of this story. Because of his lack of reserve in his interactions with the English, his status of a refugee, even how stumped he was as for the identity of the murderer made him much more endearing than when he gradually transformed into an infallible force of intellect who always keeps his cards to his chest in the later books. I also liked his role in the human element of this story when he attended to the personal lives of some of the characters as a side project during his investigation. What can I say, the man cared and I like seeing that in fiction!
All in all this is a good debut novel and although because of the writing I can't give it more than a 3 I believe that if one decides to read all of Christie's novels the way I have one might as well start at the beginning and watch the master perfect her craft.