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The Mysterious Affair at Styles


Director: Ross Devenish

Writers: Clive Exton
(Based on the novel by Agatha Christie)

Cast: David Suchet, Hugh Faser, Phillip Jackson, David Rintoul...

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA): Not rated.

Original Air Date: 16 September 1990 UK
DVD Release Date: 6 February 2001

Runtime: 103 minutes

Genres: Mystery/Crime

Reviewed by Larry Jung

A weekend visit turns into a locked room murder mystery. Lt. Arthur Hastings is recovering from a wound suffered in France. It is the summer of 1917, and World War I is raging. A chance meeting with Hastings' old friend John Cavendish (David Rintoul) is the opportunity to get a change of scenery. The Cavendish estate is at Styles in the rural countryside. But instead of a relaxing time, Hastings finds himself in the middle of a household in turmoil. The matriarch has recently married a man 20 years her younger. It seems no one approves of the marriage. The new husband is viewed as a scoundrel after the wealth of the estate. The knowledge that there is a new will make the sons and other relatives uneasy. The matriarch is poisoned. But solving the crime is beyond the abilities of the police in the person of Inspector Jap (Phillip Jackson). No one can unravel how the lady was poisoned hours after having anything to drink before her bedtime. Further, all the doors to the matriarch's bedroom are locked from the inside. By a happy accident, Hercule Poirot (David Suchet), a famous Belgium detective, is visiting the nearby village. Hastings asks Poirot for help. This is the first case for the two, and the first of many successful cases for the two.

For those who enjoy English cozy mysteries, the look and feel of the film will not disappoint. The period of England during World War I is captured by the clothes, architecture, and furniture used by the production. In the background, many of the traditional male jobs are being done by females because the young men were fighting in France. Horse drawn vehicles still have their place, though the motor car is not uncommon. And the social climate of rural England and the landed gentry is as much a part of the story as the locked room murder.

But it is David Suchet's performance as Hercule Poirot that makes The Mysterious Affair at Styles worth watching. Suchet's Poirot is fun to watch. His powers of observation are first-rate. His fastidious little quirks are endearing. But even more so is Poirot's piercing insight into human relationships and emotions. Hugh Faser as Lt. (later Captain) Hastings is Poirot's foil. But there is a real affection between the two. The chemistry between the two actors is one of the strengths of this and the other Poirot episodes.

I can recommend The Mysterious Affair at Styles as one of the better episodes in the series starring David Suchet and Hugh Faser.

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