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Christie & Cocktails: The Mysterious Affair At Styles

Jill launches her journey to re-read the Agatha Christie mystery canon while mixing themed cocktails for each book!

Christie & Cocktails: The Mysterious Affair At Styles

Please join us in welcoming our newest contributor, Jill Brumer! Jill has been reading murder mysteries since she was old enough to wrap her hands around a Nancy Drew book. She can be found most days in Houston sewing or teaching others to sew. Also, she had the idea to combine cocktails and Agatha Christie, so obviously, she's a genius.

BOOK REPORT for The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Cover Story: Misleading
BFF Charm: Eventually
Swoonworthy Scale: 1
Talky Talk: Sit Up And Pay Attention
Bonus Factors: Cocktails!
Relationship Status: We Just Keep Coming Back To Each Other

Cover Story: Misleading

So this is the first mystery Agatha Christie ever wrote. The book was first published in 1920, and there have been a lot of different covers for it, depending on what was trendy at the time. If you want to go super-traditional and find yourself an old copy, the original cover is going to have a bunch of non-information on it.  For instance, who are these zombie women following around a random dude with a candle? And what in the world is happening to the man (woman?) bent over the table over there on the side? I wish I could tell you, dear reader, I really wish I could.

The Deal:

We meet Captain Hastings for the first time. He is the Watson to Poirot's Holmes. Hastings is away from the war, convalescing. He runs into an old (rich) friend, John Cavendish, who invites him to recuperate at his amazing English home, Styles Manor (um, yes please).

It seems John's (and his brother Lawrence's) mother has remarried, despite being in her 70s (gasp!), and no one really cares for the new guy, Alfred Inglethorp. Get a clue, 1920s England—just because you have a beard does not make you a villain. (Or maybe it does? NO SPOILERS here.) When Mrs. Inglethorp dies a terrible and traumatic death by poisoning, no one is surprised or really very sad (oh, you Brits…). It’s up to Hercule Poirot, that charming little Belgian detective, to figure out who poisoned Mrs. Inglethorp in her locked room. Lucky for everyone involved, the War is going on, so some Belgians are taking flight and settling into the English countryside, which is conveniently how Poirot comes in to save the day.

This book has all the standard British mystery tropes, with Dame Christie putting them to good use: A remote English manor, a host of weird characters all staying in the home, a locked-room murder by poisoning, and a murder trial. Way to check off everything on my must-have, classic, mystery list!

BFF Charm: Eventually

Sigh. Hercule Poirot, you are a weird little Belgian man. I want to put you in my pocket so I can always have you deducing something amazing near me! Although, if I know anything about Poirot, it’s that his only true friend is Captain Hastings, so I guess I’m just sloppy seconds. It’s cool though, I’m totally fine with that. I will wait my turn.

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

This being Edwardian England, no one talks about their feelings. EVER. We don’t even find out until the very LAST page that two of the characters have started dating (or are engaged, I’m not sure. Either option I could totally see, which I find unsettling). Plus, there is a serious MURDER you guys. We don’t have time for feelings around here.

Talky Talk: Sit Up And Pay Attention

Agatha Christie is known for her expansive prose. She draws you into the story and leads you along like it’s a conversation, dropping little hints and clues here and there. Thirteen year old Jill loved her some Agatha Christie mysteries, and I have to say, (slightly) older Jill still does too, and I think it has to do with the way Christie writes. She expects you to be smart, but never as smart as her detective. Also, I love that she doesn’t take her audience for granted and can share a good laugh with us along the way.

“Like a good detective story myself,” remarked Miss Howard. “Lots of nonsense written, though. Criminal discovered in last chapter. Every one dumbfounded. Real crime—you’d know at once.”…

“Then,”[Hastings] said, much amused, “you think if you were mixed up in a crime, say a murder, you’d be able to spot the murderer right off?”

Very clever, Dame Christie, very clever. We get it. But we still want to keep reading to see you disprove us as well as your smarty-pants characters!

Bonus Factor: Cocktails!

This is going to be an on-going theme of my Christie Mystery Book Reports. I am making a themed cocktail or food to go along with each story! After all, we can’t properly sit around our expansive English manor house without a fancy dinner or equally-fancy tea time, am I right?

Lucky for me, the lady of the house takes her hot cocoa every night before bed. And she adds rum to it. I recommend the following cocktail to take to bed with you on a stormy British night—just make sure it’s not poisoned first!

Ingredients:

1/2 oz. Creme de Cocoa

1 1/2 oz. Aged Rum (dark but NOT spiced!)

1 egg white

A dash of orange bitters

A sprinkle of nutmeg

A lemon twist for fanciness!

*Side note: if you're sketched out about drinking an egg white, here's a pro tip to make sure your egg is drink-worthy. Put the egg in question in a deep bowl of water. Eggs that float are okay to cook but not to drink. If it sinks, it drinks!

Shake the first three ingredients WITHOUT ice for a whole minute (work those biceps, girl!).

Add a little ice to cool things down; shake for 5 more seconds.

Strain into a cocktail glass, add a dash of orange bitters and sprinkle nutmeg on top; add your lemon twist if you want to be fancy. And hold your pinky up while you drink this cocktail, in honor of the (late) Mrs. Inglethorp!

Relationship Status: We Just Keep Coming Back To Each Other

Oh 1920s British mysteries, I just can’t say no to you. You have everything I can ever want or expect, and do I grow tired of it? No. Even if we take a break, you know I’ll always come back to you.

Jill Brumer's photo About the Author: Jill Brumer is originally from South Carolina, but has lived all over the country and world. She is happy to call Texas home now! An avid reader, Sherlock Holmes addict, college professor, former-actor, all-around artsy/crafty person and small business-owner, she keeps pretty busy!