Maria Lectrix (zipped mp3s)
Length: 8 hours, 8 minutes
Reader: Maureen O'Brien
The book: Agatha Christie gets a bad reputation for writing books full of unlikely circumstances and formulaic plots. Read enough of Christie and her imitators and this reputation starts to feel earned. Still, Christie shouldn't be blamed for the work of knockoffs and the demands of her fans to write "another one like the last one but different." At her best, Agatha Christie books are entertaining and memorable reads.
Fortunately for Free Listens, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, along with The Secret Adversary (reviewed previously) are in the public domain in the United States. Christie's first mystery featuring the Belgian detective Poirot, the mystery is told from the point of view of Poirot's own Watson, Lt. Arthur Hastings. While Hastings is home on leave from World War I, he visits his friend John Cavendish at Styles manor. A murder occurs, as it tends to do in these stories, and Hastings calls on his acquaintance Poirot, a detective who is living nearby as a war refugee. As Poirot investigates, suspicion falls on each character in turn before the murderer is finally revealed. This basic plot, with some twists, was recycled in later stories, but it's worthwhile to go back and enjoy the first incarnation of a classic devise.
The reader: O'Brien has a lovely voice that conveys the emotions of the characters. She varies her voice slightly for the cast, with a slight Belgian-French pattern of speech for Poirot and accents that approximate English accents for most of the others. The recording is of middling quality; it's good enough to listen to, but has some muddy sound that can be overlooked for a free reading. The book is in the public domain in the U.S., but in many other countries it's still under copyright by the Christie estate, so check your local laws before downloading.
(photo by connerdowney via flickr. Creative Commons Attribution, No derivatives, Non-commercial license.)
(Review entered in Cym Lowell's Book Review Wednesday Party. Follow the link for more book reviews)