#Septemblog Day 3: “Styles” and Other Mysterious Affairs

My reading list for 2022 is embarrassingly small. In past years, I’ve averaged in the mid-30s for books completed in a calendar year. This year, if you count all of the volumes of the Invincible trade paperback that I read as a single book (and you probably should), I’m sitting at right around a dozen books so far, and almost all of them are fiction.

Nothing wrong with that. I used to read almost nothing but fiction. In recent years, I’ve really leaned harder into non-fiction and theology specifically, but this year, with its uptick in demands and challenges from both work and home life, I’ve needed a bit more of an escape. (Unfortunately, some of that escape has been by devouring Youtube video-game “Let’s Play” series. I shudder to think of the hours I’ve wasted watching other people play video games this year. Anyway.)

I tried to make a run at John LeCarre’s Smiley novels, but I had a hard time following the characters from book to book once I got to The Looking-Glass War, so I lost steam. (I’ll get back to it; LeCarre is worth the effort–The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is just a knockout of a spy thriller.)

As I mentioned last month, I’m now working through Agatha Christie’s top-ten Hercule Poirot stories, as voted on by the fansite that bears her name. I read Orient Express last year, and this year I have already enjoyed The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Death on the Nile. So over the last several weeks, I picked up The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Capsule Review: It’s decently good. Not my favorite of Christie’s books, but it’s solid. It does exactly what you hope a good mystery will do: set up the victim, the crime, and the suspects; throw you a decent number of red herrings and hairpin turns; and bring all of the pieces together in a satisfying way at the end (usually with a great bottle scene where everyone’s in the room accusing each other).

Styles delivers on all these counts, and it’s a pleasant little read.

My friend Collin (a history/literature professor and now Books Editor for World Magazine) told me once about a class he was going to teach on the literary genre of detective fiction and mystery, and how we are drawn to these stories because we have an innate desire to see wrongs being made right and the truth coming out, despite the lies told by the guilty. I think of that often when I read stories like this.

The most satisfying mystery story is only so once you get to the end and see how all the pieces fit together, as the guilty are brought to account and justice is restored.

I suspect Heaven will be a little bit like that.

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