I hadn't read any Agatha Christie before, which seems odd as my parents were fans and I remember the books being around the house. However I've been a huge fan of the TV adaptations with David Suchet. The beginning seemed like the best place to start (it normally is with books). Both the first Christie novel and Hercule Poirot's first investigation, at least the first documented by Christie through the pen of the charming, if dim, Lieutenant Hastings. With the arrival of Inspector Japp as well, two of the most well known side-kicks of Poirot are there from the beginning.
Hastings is cast straight into the role of Watson to Poirot's Holmes. On leave from the war, Hastings is staying at Styles during his recovery. While there his hostess, Emily Inglethorp, dies a violent death, immediately believed to be strychnine poisoning. Suspicion immediately falls on the disliked younger husband who is widely thought to be a gold digger. Luckily, there just happens to be a group of Belgian's being housed in the nearby village and a certain Belgian ex-policeman is there with them. Hastings starts to investigate and asks Poirot to help him out. The resulting wild speculation from Hastings offset by the quite measured smugness of Poirot is pretty much what everybody will expect. But the two characters and their developing relationship is still fun to observe even though you know what's coming. Having the process narrated by Hastings who barely seems to notice either his own stupidity or Poirot's smugness helps as well.
Of course Poirot saves all the explanations for the last few pages and although a few clues are thrown to the reader it's not enough to reach the solution yourself. The twist was maybe a bit too much though. It felt as though Poirot had given the reader some deliberate red-herrings just so we couldn't work it out before he had time to stage his 'reveal'.
Also, the Gutenberg ebook edition that I read meant that there are number of references which were not included. Hastings reproduces a couple of pieces of evidence which I assume appear as figures in other editions. In this one however, Hastings merely says "included below is the whatever:" and then the next paragraph appears immediately. I'm not convinced it spoilt my enjoyment of the book, nor would their presence have ensured I was able to beat Poirot to the punch, but it would have been nice to have the chance to see them.