Tea Tonic and Toxin: Mystery and Thriller Podcast and Book Club

Introducing Poirot and Hastings!

The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Agatha Christie - First Hercule Poirot Novel - All About Styles Court - Tea Tonic and Toxin Podcast
The Mysterious Affair at Styles - Agatha Christie - First Hercule Poirot Novel - All About Styles Court - Tea Tonic and Toxin Podcast
Tea, Tonic, and Toxin
Introducing Poirot and Hastings!
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The Mysterious Affair at Styles: All About Poirot and Hastings

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) is the first Hercule Poirot mystery (and the first starring the dynamic duo of Poirot and Hastings). Can Belgian detective Hercule Poirot solve an unsolvable crime committed at Styles Court? From the Times Literary Supplement (1921): “[The story] is said to be the result of a bet about the possibility of writing a detective story in which the reader would not be able to spot the criminal. Every reader must admit that the bet was won.”

Read: Buy it used, read it for free, or get it on Amazon. (Reading time: ~4 hours)

Reflect: Check out the conversation starters.

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Transcript: The Mysterious Affair at Styles - All About Poirot and Hastings

Sarah Harrison 0:24
Welcome to Tea Tonic, and Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host Sarah Harrison.

Carolyn Daughters 0:35
And I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a cup of tea, a gin and tonic,

Sarah Harrison 0:40
… but not a toxin …

Carolyn Daughters 0:43
and join us on a journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers, every one of them a game changer.

Sarah Harrison 0:49
Hello, everyone. We are double excited about our second episode today, where we will be talking about The Mysterious Affair at Styles. And we also have our super amazing, special guest, Jill Carstens. I always know the first name. Our special guest

Carolyn Daughters 1:19
Our special guest, who we love very much … it is …

Sarah Harrison 1:23
Miss Jill Carstens. Before we start asking Jill a million questions, we want to give some time to today’s amazing sponsor, Carolyn Daughters. Carolyn runs game-changing corporate brand therapy workshops, teaches online marketing bootcamp courses and leads daylong Persuasive Writing Engine workshops. Carolyn empowers startups, small businesses, enterprise organizations, and government agencies to win hearts minds deals in dollars. You can learn more at carolyndaughters.com.

Carolyn Daughters 2:11
Persuasive Writing Engine.

Jill Carstens 2:16
It sounds cool.

Sarah Harrison 2:31
Folks, that’s what it is.

Carolyn Daughters 2:34
It’s this proprietary persuasive writing course that I created and teach for government agencies, the Department of Defense, the US Air Force, and large corporations.

Jill Carstens 2:53
Very impressive.

Sarah Harrison 2:54
Excellent.

Carolyn Daughters 3:07
It’s all coming together.

Sarah Harrison 3:11
And if you’ve listened to our last episode, you’ve already met our amazing guest, Jill Carstens. She was a teacher for 30 years, folks. Now she’s concentrating on writing. She’s a journalist and writer of narrative nonfiction. She’s also a painter and an outdoor lover. When she’s not podcasting with us, which is like all of the rest of her life,

Carolyn Daughters 3:39
The other 99.87% of her life.

Sarah Harrison 3:45
… she’s hanging out with her husband and her son in Denver, Colorado and Salida.

Carolyn Daughters 3:59
In my defense, I wrote Jill’s bio live while I was reading Jill’s bio.

Sarah Harrison 4:14
I get to say lots of great things today. We have a listener award to a super special listener. Now, she’s already won a listener award, Jennifer Zee. But this time she gets to win an even more special award. If you’ve been looking on our Instagram page or our Facebook page. We’ve been running a contest. How many entrants did we have for that contest?

Carolyn Daughters 4:39
I believe we had 217 entrants. 40 something.

Sarah Harrison 4:45
It’s two hundred and something. Thank you for all those who entered, but Jennifer Zee took the prize, which was a free copy of The 39 Steps. So thank you, Jennifer from Michigan for being such an awesome listener, reader, and social media engager.

Carolyn Daughters 5:06
And she got a book and guess what I put inside that book?

Sarah Harrison 5:12
Twenty dollars.

Carolyn Daughters 5:16
Jennifer, the twenty dollars is not in the book. The sticker should be in the book.

Sarah Harrison 5:22
Awesome. Thank you, Jennifer. I don’t know if we’re ever having a contest again. But you can certainly get a sticker. How do you get a sticker?

Carolyn Daughters 5:32
You get a sticker by commenting on our website, teatonicandtoxin.com. We have a contact page and a page for every single book that we read. You can also comment on our Facebook page @teatonicandtoxin and our Instagram page @teatonicandtoxin.

Sarah Harrison 5:51
Or you could post a picture of yourself reading the book, and then tag us, and we’ll feature you. And send you a sticker probably.

Carolyn Daughters 6:01
If you upload a picture of yourself reading the book, you’re probably gonna a sticker.

Sarah Harrison 6:07
Do it. Do it everybody. What’s our book, Carolyn?

Carolyn Daughters 6:11
Our book is The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. It’s our first of three Agatha Christies this year, and it’s the very first book in which Hercule Poirot and Hastings appear. Very exciting.

Sarah Harrison 6:25
Yes, and said beautifully.

Carolyn Daughters 6:29
Agatha Christie’s debut novel was published in 1920. The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The story begins when the narrator, Captain Arthur Hastings, returns to England from the Great War due to an injury and is invited by his old friend John Cavendish to visit his home at Styles Court. Not long after Hastings arrives at the country estate, John’s wealthy stepmother, Emily Ingelthorp, is found poisoned and her locked bedroom. Hastings asks his old friend Hercule Poirot to investigate. Poirot is a retired detective and a refugee from Belgium who lives nearby. Emily Ingelthorp had been his benefactress and he takes the case to avenge her death. Suspects are plentiful in this Golden Age detective story. Suspicion falls on everyone in residence, including John Cavendish and his younger brother Lawrence, Emily’s hired companion, Emily’s young ward, and a famous poison specialist. The greatest suspicion falls on Emily’s new husband, Alfred Inglethorp, who’s 20 years her junior. Then the evidence seems to point to John Cavendish as the killer. The dramatic denouement takes place in the Styles Court salon, where Poirot and Hastings gather the entire household to reveal the truth. So who killed Emily Ingelthorp, and why? Can you spot the red herrings and discover the truth of the killer’s identity? Outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare, Agatha Christie is the bestselling novelist of all time. Hercule Poirot appeared in 33 novels, two plays, and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975. Today, we’re excited to talk about Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It’s our fourth book selection of 2023. You can find all of our 2023 book selections on our website at teatonicandtoxin.com.

Sarah Harrison 8:15
Go there. Leave a comment, win a sticker.

Jill Carstens 8:19
All kinds of good stuff.

Sarah Harrison 8:22
Jill, what was most interesting to you about this book. Now I see you have a lot of cool notes there.

Jill Carstens 8:27
That’s a big question. What did I like? What was your question?

Sarah Harrison 8:34
It’s open ended. I used the word “interesting,” so you can really answer however you want.

Jill Carstens 8:42
Definitely the whole false clue piece. Interesting, as I mentioned before, frustrating, because I wanted to solve it myself, and I worked hard at that, actually. A lot of my notes had to do with trying to figure it out.

Sarah Harrison 8:58
Oh, that’s cool. You took notes while you were trying to figure it out.

Jill Carstens 9:01
I marked up the whole book with my notes — that’s notable, etc. That’s what I do.

Sarah Harrison 9:08
I feel that.

Jill Carstens 9:10
And we talked in the previous episode about wanting to connect with characters although Poirot — and I’m very impressed with Carolyn’s French pronunciation, I will say. Did you take French in school?

Carolyn Daughters 9:26
I was a French minor.

Sarah Harrison 9:27
There we go. There you go, folks. Denouement.

Jill Carstens 9:29
I was a Russian minor. It’s more guttural for me. I don’t have that savoir faire of the French language. Yeah, I don’t know if I have a good summary of what I think. However, I did mention that I had never read an Agatha Christie, and now I’m pretty hooked. Knowing what her writing is like from watching some of the movies, I do see this first book showing a template for future books, it seems to me, and I thought that was cool and interesting. And I did read up about her a little bit and understood that the First World War had an effect on her knowledge of death and drugs.

Carolyn Daughters 10:23
She worked in a dispensary.

Jill Carstens 10:27
Which is their word for hospital.

Sarah Harrison 10:30
It’s the pharmacy part of the hospital, right? Like Cynthia worked in the dispensary at the hospital.

Jill Carstens 10:36
I wrote that down. Yeah, the use of the word. Yeah, was interesting. So

Carolyn Daughters 10:40
Agatha Christie would have seen refugees. She worked at a hospital, I believe. So she draws on this in the story.

Jill Carstens 10:49
Background knowledge, sure.

Carolyn Daughters 10:54
Sarah, how about you like what stood out for you in this book?

Sarah Harrison 10:59
For me, I think it was the humor. I’m not sure we’ve read such a humorous book since like Bleak House. I love Poirot and Hastings. And there was just so much funniness with Hastings’ lack of introspection. I know you said in the last episode he was probably like mid 30s, but I had to think he was like 22 or so based on how he was acting, especially towards the ladies. He has this obliviousness to people’s behavior and implications. To me, Hastings is comedic relief. I was going to try and count how many times he notes Poirot looked sorry for him.

Carolyn Daughters 11:46
Poirot and Hastings are amazing. I love how many times Hastings is sorry for Poirot. He’s like, oh, the old man’s mind was starting to fail him.

Sarah Harrison 11:55
He would ask like some dummy question, and Poirot just look at him and the sad way. Yeah, I really liked the humor in this one, especially.

Carolyn Daughters 12:06
Hastings is a recurring character in many of Agatha Christie’s Poirot stories. I don’t think he’s in either of the other two we’re reading this year. I don’t he’s in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. And I don’t think he’s in Murder on the Orient Express.

Sarah Harrison 12:23
I haven’t seen the movie, but luckily, I’ve forgotten it. So I’m likely to be surprised.

Carolyn Daughters 12:41
For me, most of the characters were unlikeable except maybe Poirot and Hastings. When Mrs. Ingelthorp is dying, she’s gasping loudly. She could barely breathe. They cannot bust through the hallway door. There are two other doors they can try to get through. On one side of her room, she shares a door with her husband, Alfred Inglethorp, and on the other side she shares a door with Cynthia, who works in the dispensary at the Red Cross Hospital.

Jill Carstens 13:34
Do you hear an ice cream truck?

Carolyn Daughters 13:35
We’re hearing an ice cream truck going down the street. It’s all professional here.

Sarah Harrison 13:48
We paid that ice cream truck to go down the street.

Jill Carstens 13:52
I thought it was my phone ringing. I was horrified.

Carolyn Daughters 13:56
Listeners, we’re just gonna pop outside for a second to get ourselves an ice cream.

Sarah Harrison 14:01
You’ll never know we’re gone.

Carolyn Daughters 14:05
So, there are two other doors to Mrs. Inglethorp’s room. Alfred Ingelthorp’s door is locked. And Mary Cavendish is shaking Cynthia to try to wake her. Mary says the door is bolted from the inside. Later that’s confirmed by the younger brother, Lawrence. Folks, the door was not bolted from the inside. Mary and Lawrence are lying. Mary Cavendish had been wandering through Mrs. Ingelthorp’s room, and Laurence thinks Cynthia committed the murder so he’s covering for her. I’m shocked that they faked this bolted door.

Sarah Harrison 14:48
Well, now, Laurence didn’t know right when they were trying to get in? Because they just assumed it was always bolted. But Cynthia’s wasn’t because Mary went out of it. And I can’t remember, how did Mary get into the room.

Carolyn Daughters 15:02
I think she just walked in. It wasn’t bolted.

Sarah Harrison 15:05
Does she have the key? Emily Inglethorp got straight in and bolted the door. She didn’t bolt the door between Cynthia’s room, but she bolted the door to the hallway. The door between Emily’s room and Cynthia’s room was unbolted.

Carolyn Daughters 15:25
All these people are standing there looking at each other funny. How do we get into her room? Um, go through the door? I was shocked. I was like, Oh my God, I hope to never be Emily Inglethorp with a team of people who are too stupid to try a door.

Jill Carstens 15:44
Right? Well, if I’m gonna play devil’s advocate, it was usually bolted. But it only wasn’t because Mary escaped out of it. So it’s really mostly on Mary, who knew it was unbolted. It’s a little complicated there, I have to say.

Sarah Harrison 16:01
I guess she thought it was beyond saving.

Carolyn Daughters 16:04
I’m not a big fan of Mary’s.

Sarah Harrison 16:07
She’s an interesting cat.

Jill Carstens 16:09
Tell me why you say that. I want to hear what you think.

Sarah Harrison 16:11
That she’s an interesting cat? She’s not very sympathetic, but she’s also more interesting than a lot of the other lady characters we’ve read. She’s not totally flat, or insipid. She doesn’t fall into a fever all the time. She’s the first character who’s had an interesting life and is planning on leaving her husband. And I’m like, well, that’s really different. And she’s beautiful. They’re all beautiful, of course, except for poor Marian. In the other book.

Carolyn Daughters 16:51
Marian Halcombe in The Woman in White.

Sarah Harrison 16:57
She’s the really unlucky and un-beautiful one. But Mary is beautiful, but Agatha Christie refers to this wildness in her, which is usually not something we’ve seen referred to before as an attractive quality in other ladies.

Jill Carstens 17:12
And with her friendship with another man. That was interesting. I read somewhere that some of her behavior was fed because she was worried that she accidentally had poisoned Emily. So she was worried the whole time that maybe she had accidentally killed her.

Carolyn Daughters 17:36
That’s a great point. But Emily’s still gasping in that room. Maybe she can be saved. Nope, the doors locked. Bolted. Can’t get in.

Sarah Harrison 17:44
Everyone’s definitely extremely self-serving. It’s a sad story in that way. Even though I said I was struck by the humor, the the backdrop is really very kind of empty and sad.

Jill Carstens 18:04
All the wealthy people just being selfish and ratting each other out.

Carolyn Daughters 18:09
Evie comes across as the outlier. And she’s as self-serving as any of them.

Sarah Harrison 18:16
She’s more diabolical. Poirot and Hastings see Evie very differently. Poirot called it in a way because he was asking Hastings like, why don’t you think Evie did it? And Hastings is like, well, because she was clearly fond of her. And Poirot’s like, anyone clever enough to commit a murder is clever enough to pretend to be fond of somebody.

Carolyn Daughters 18:43
Jill, what’s your take on Mary?

Jill Carstens 18:46
She was mysterious. Hastings seemed to also have a crush on her. He had a crush on all the women. I was very curious about her, and I connected her with Cynthia. I had wondered if she had drugged Cynthia because it was so hard to wake up Cynthia. I wondered if Mary had done that since she’d been in there and was trying to get her up. So that occurred to me, and I felt kind of smart about that. Even though the rest of the book fooled me. She had me going. I was very curious. She had been sitting outside the window when they were having that conversation, and I didn’t really know how that was affecting her. I was very curious about her.

Sarah Harrison 19:37
She clearly knew that it wasn’t an argument with Alfred. She knew it was an argument with her husband. She wasn’t saying anything at any point to anyone ever. Her pride in the story, everything turned on pride with her. And that was, I thought, stupid. That bugged me in the last story too. Mabel Manderson in Trent’s Last Case. She never talked to her millionaire husband or like corrected him or had it out because of her pride.

Carolyn Daughters 20:28
You mentioned the problems caused by poor communication.

Sarah Harrison 20:31
It tied into what Poirot was saying about a woman’s happiness. He knew that John being on trial for murder would bring out the best in Mary and that that would overcome her pride. And then she and John would be reunited, and then the marriage would work out. And I was like, that’s cool. And I like that romantically. But in reality, if you’re not working on the pride, what’s the very next thing that’s going to bother you that you’re not going to talk about and become like a barrier to your marriage?

Jill Carstens 21:11
There was a lot left unsaid between John and Mary Cavendish. They’re both leading these side lives. He was having an affair.

Sarah Harrison 21:25
With another married lady. I was flabbergasted. I guess I’m so old timey.

Carolyn Daughters 21:33
I’m thinking, like, 1920, surely no one had an affair in 1920. Which is totally ridiculous.

Jill Carstens 21:58
And then there’s Mary, who seems to be into Dr. Bauerstein. But the truth is that she just kind of wants to make her husband, John, jealous.

Carolyn Daughters 22:04
I was a little squidged out about how Hastings would go to sleep at night dreaming about Mary. I thought, this is your buddy’s wife. Maybe I’m being old fashioned.

Sarah Harrison 22:22
It was very weird because he was very “good old boys” about John. Like John’s my buddy, John’s great chap. He even tells Mary that and gets all offended on his behalf. But then Poirot said the funniest thing. He was like, oh, no, she doesn’t love that doctor. She loves someone else in Hastings. And Hastings is immediately like, is it me?

Jill Carstens 22:41
Poirot and Hastings are amazing together. Hastings is so funny in this book.

Sarah Harrison 22:49
He’s really funny in a terrible but also funny way. I don’t hate him, even though he is appalling. I like him.

Jill Carstens 23:01
That pride thing and not communicating. I wonder if that’s a bit of the timeframe, too, and the upper class not putting their problems out to air.

Sarah Harrison 23:13
To even themselves.

Jill Carstens 23:16
Unless somebody’s listening in a window.

Sarah Harrison 23:18
Which they are.

Carolyn Daughters 23:20
Right. So rather than talk to you, I will simply go off and have an affair with Mrs. Raikes. And she says rather than talk to you, I’ll let you have this affair with Mrs. Raikes and pretend I’m having an affair with Dr. Bauerstein.

Sarah Harrison 23:33
It’s goofy, like, Oh, my goodness. I’m very much for whatever flaws that may be in me, like, have it out, get mad.

Jill Carstens 23:46
Right. Here it is. Let me know.

Sarah Harrison 23:48
Say some words.

Carolyn Daughters 23:52
Mary married John, basically, because it was the best option she had. But she wasn’t in love with him. How did you feel about her statement about her marriage to John?

Jill Carstens 24:15
Almost, it was probably pretty honest. For the beginning. Clearly she grew to care when she found out he was cheating on her. That’s interesting. But I do think that a lot of that is, again, the time period and how people handle things.

Carolyn Daughters 24:37
I think it’s common enough at the time. And I think it’s common enough today, to be perfectly honest. I know more than one person who grew up in tough homes, and marriage felt like a way out of that. I don’t know that everyone is necessarily as truthful to say, I’m not in love with you, but I’m going to marry you. But I think maybe people are less truthful with themselves. And they’re like, it just feels like love because of where they’re at and what they want in life. But there may be playing more into self-deception, because it turns out to be a poor choice.

Jill Carstens 25:21
Or kowtowing to social norms or what they think is expected of them. I definitely know people that have done that in this century.

Carolyn Daughters 25:34
Why can she be honest in various scenes with Poirot and Hastings, but not with her own husband?

Sarah Harrison 25:43
Is she honest with Poirot and Hastings?

Carolyn Daughters 25:46
She says she married to get out of the monotony of her life.

Sarah Harrison 25:53
She told her husband that. I think she can only be a little bit unkind, like she can’t be vulnerable. She can tell him she doesn’t love him. She can’t tell him she does love her. And that she’s hurt. I think that’s the deal. Because she’s ready to walk out. She can tell you she’s walking out. But she’s still not going to tell you she loves him. She just makes it seem like a mutual decision. And they’re tired of each other.

Carolyn Daughters 26:24
Let’s stay on Poirot and Hastings for a second because I want to talk about the end of the book and what Poirot does to reinforce a woman’s happiness. Because we’re talking marriage, there’s also a marriage proposal in the book.

Sarah Harrison 26:40
I loved it. And it was stupid.

Carolyn Daughters 26:44
Tell us.

Sarah Harrison 26:46
Well, it was a marriage of convenience. Cynthia is concerned that now that Mrs. Ingelthorp was dead, and Mary hates her, and John and Mary will get the house, and she’s gonna have to find somewhere else to live. And, of course, Hastings says, Mary hates you. That’s crazy. Marry me. He felt a little goofy about it himself afterwards.

Carolyn Daughters 27:14
She laughed at him. Okay, first of all, he’s a complete goofball.

Sarah Harrison 27:20
What’s she supposed to do? Honestly.

Carolyn Daughters 27:23
I was shocked she laughed at him.

Sarah Harrison 27:25
What other choice did she have? You have to pretend like he’s joking, or you’re gonna have to have an awkward, serious conversation. It’s much easier to laugh, pretend like you’re dismissing it, and leave. Again, conversational avoidance,

Carolyn Daughters 27:41
right. And so then my question is, if her if she was in such dire straits, as she says she is, why not accept Hastings.

Jill Carstens 27:52
Do you think she already knew that Lawrence liked her?

Sarah Harrison 27:57
Well, she liked Lawrence. So I don’t know. She might have had an inkling there. She’s a working lady. She might have been fine on her own.

Carolyn Daughters 28:07
How unappealing is Hastings that when she has no better shot at the present? She says “no” in 1920. I thought that scene was super interesting. The proposal comes seemingly out of nowhere. He starts this whole weird fantasy. He’s like, well, Cynthia is actually much nicer than Mary’s ever been to me. So he starts building an instant case for Cynthia out of nothing. And then it all comes crashing down when she laughs and walks away. It’s a weird scene. And then at the end, we learn John Cavendish has been on trial for the murder. Poirot knew he wasn’t guilty. And Poirot still allows this whole case to proceed. That threw me.

Sarah Harrison 29:14
A woman’s happiness part? He’s trying to unlock her love for John.

Carolyn Daughters 29:25
So you let a man go on trial for his life?

Sarah Harrison 29:29
It’s facetious because Poirot knows he won’t go to jail. He knows he can save him. And he’s used this whole time period. Poirot and Hastings are a good pairing. It seemed like Hastings’ dummy behavior enabled Poirot to completely put the real murderer at their ease. In the background, he seems just going around whispering all this nonsense to everybody about him working with Poirot and what he thinks he knows and the doctor has been arrested. I mean, he’s just have this funny little gossipy guy spinning around saying silly stuff to everyone. And really working on Poirot’s behalf without realizing it.

Carolyn Daughters 30:15
He’s the perfect companion. From that perspective. Poirot is so deep into the psychology of people, he can tell that by allowing John Cavendish to be put on trial, Mary is going to double-down and stand by her man. And the two of them are going to come through this stronger than ever. I was impressed by his ability to understand her psychology or the psychology of a woman’s happiness. But I’m also amazed that he would go through all of that.

Sarah Harrison 30:57
Well, how could he have gotten John Cavendish to not go on trial? That’s escaping me at the moment? Because didn’t he have to kind of still find some clues to get Evie and Alfred. Poirot was looking for stuff all the way up. And then there was this stuff about the letter that got stuffed in a vase or something, and he couldn’t find it. And Hastings put Poirot on the right track, and then he found it. That’s why Poirot and Hastings work so well together.

Jill Carstens 31:44
There were some loose ends, definitely.

Sarah Harrison 31:45
I’m not particularly sure how Poirot could have got Cavendish off before he went to trial.

Jill Carstens 31:50
Maybe he just needed more time.

Sarah Harrison 31:52
Like he could have said, “I know he’s innocent.” And his reputation could have helped him. But it seemed almost to me like unnecessary distraction.

Carolyn Daughters 32:04
He gathers everybody in the room at Styles Court and then goes through all the pieces of the puzzle, that becomes a thing that is going to be repeated many, many times. There’s a limited cast of characters, just these people in or associated with the house. And then at the end, you bring them all back together and you talk through what happened. It looks like you’re about to say this person did it or that person did that. And then of course, at the end, it ends up being this wholly unexpected person.

Sarah Harrison 32:45
The person I already got off from doing it — that’s the one who did it.

Carolyn Daughters 32:49
Exactly the person we thought it was at the beginning turns out to be the person who did it.

Sarah Harrison 32:54
That was surprising. The most obvious person did it. But I definitely was like, Okay, I guess it’s not that guy. It’s got to be somebody else.

Jill Carstens 33:05
It’s so clever.

Carolyn Daughters 33:10
There’s several other scenes that I think are really interesting, like, when Hastings falls asleep at this tree.

Sarah Harrison 33:20
And he wakes up, and here’s their fight.

Carolyn Daughters 33:23
It brought me back to every uncomfortable fight I’ve ever witnessed. You’re witnessing a fight or you’re at someone else’s house. And they know you’re there. That’s how much they don’t care. They don’t care who’s around. Or you’re within earshot, like Mary is when her husband’s fighting with Emily Inglethorp. Or like Hastings is when he’s hearing Mary and John fighting, and you’re inadvertently eavesdropping. It’s the most uncomfortable thing I think in the world. As I discussed in a previous podcast, when I was child, I could make myself invisible. I always wish I retained that ability as an adult. Because there are times where I’m like, oh, my gosh, I do not want to be here, right now, in this space. You can’t unhear what you’re hearing. It’s removing this veil of privacy between two people, and you just don’t want to be privy to it.

Sarah Harrison 34:43
I would say I don’t want them to know I’m privy to it. I don’t mind hearing it myself. That’s an honest. I don’t mind hearing a fight but I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable knowing I’ve heard it.

Jill Carstens 34:57
They didn’t know you’re there. Right. I mean, it does baffle me when really let loose in front of other people. You get to know them a little differently.

Carolyn Daughters 35:08
And you also get to know something about their relationship. It’s hard to know what’s happening inside anybody else’s four walls. You think this family or this couple is doing great, and then you find out otherwise. You thought you had a pretty good handle on it because you’re a family member or you’re a very close friend. But it’s just really hard to know what is going on. So when someone has the public fight, like John and Mary, it’s too much information.

Jill Carstens 35:54
I suppose the people that do it in front of people knowingly are maybe more secure in their relationship because they don’t care. I don’t know.

Carolyn Daughters 36:05
I know some people who are comfortable arguing with their significant other in front of people.

Sarah Harrison 36:13
Like a serious argument?

Carolyn Daughters 36:16
Not screaming at the top of their lungs. But uncomfortable enough that you’re listening to it and thinking “I should not be here. Remember me? I’m right here.”

Sarah Harrison 36:28
I don’t know if that sort of person thinks that everyone else agrees with what they’re saying. Everyone thinks this person is being a dummy right now. And I’m just gonna say it or, or they think their significant other is comfortable with that. Because usually there’s an aggressor and an aggressor.

Jill Carstens 36:51
I don’t know. Probably not a whole lot of premeditation. That’s what I’m thinking. There’s a trigger pulled. And suddenly, you’re like, it’s gonna happen. I think that’s normal … to not enjoy that.

Carolyn Daughters 37:09
So long as they don’t know that. I am uncomfortable with them observing me listening. But if I was just listening to a recording of it, I wouldn’t care.

Jill Carstens 37:40
Okay, gotcha. That’s a little different.

Carolyn Daughters 37:46
Anger and anger directed toward other people — I get so uncomfortable with it.

Sarah Harrison 37:53
Do you have arguments yourself? You have anger and you direct anger? Or do you have like really calm arguments?

Carolyn Daughters 38:05
I have anger and express anger. It’s more common for me to address something in a calm way with somebody. I also try not to let things spiral so far out of control that the trigger is basically a tap on my shoulder and I’m exploding.

Jill Carstens 38:29
That’s not uncommon with many people who say so little about what’s irking them that it gets to this place that you do almost nothing and they explode.

Carolyn Daughters 38:41
For the most part, I’m not wired that way.

Jill Carstens 38:45
Which is good.

Sarah Harrison 38:45
I would say it’s been a lot of work for me to rein in anger. I’ve never been one to publicly fight. I feel like that’s very bad form. But I can feel very intense levels of anger, and it’s been a practice over the last 25 years to get a little bit better at having less emotional conversations about things I am dissatisfied with. But your partner has to join with you there. You need a partner that also wants to have a calm conversation vs. wanting to stab you and make you mad.

Jill Carstens 39:57
There’s a balance there definitely. I think it’s normal to be uncomfortable witnessing or overhearing someone else’s anger. It’s very awkward. Even though, like you just said, you we don’t know everything about everybody. I mean, as I get older, Because they’re broadcasting and it’s the show that your entertainment for the evening? But we don’t know everything. Benefit of the doubt, I guess.

Sarah Harrison 41:41
I’m gonna go back to Poirot and Hastings for a minute here because I love one of these questions that we haven’t really addressed about him. And that’s the Poe’s narrator versus Watson versus Hastings and maybe any of the other narrators that we’ve run into. Who was Lady Molly’s narrator in Lady Molly of Scotland Yard?

Carolyn Daughters 42:02
Her secretary, Mary.

Sarah Harrison 42:07
Mary. So in what ways are they variations on a theme, and in what ways do they differ? What are your thoughts there?

Carolyn Daughters 42:18
The unnamed narrator in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter” is quite arrogant for no legitimate reason, simply by association. Dupin is really smart, the narrator is associated with Dupin, and, therefore, the narrator is very smart by extension. The Poirot and Hastings pairing has a lot of that as well. But the reader can see how silly Hastings can be, whereas there was nothing silly about Poe’s narrator. Mary and Watson are both level-headed and smart. Watson can’t see everything Sherlock Holmes sees, but I felt very Watson like. My understanding of whatever was happening always seemed no further than where Watson was. I never landed where Sherlock Holmes landed. And Mary in Lady Molly of Scotland Yard is also like Watson. She’s level-headed, savvy. She can jump in and play a role and help out with the case. She doesn’t know as much as Lady Molly, but she’s the best help mate possible. What are your thoughts?

Sarah Harrison 43:48
I was like, well, they’re all sidekicks. And they all have, they all present a screen that we’re seeing the geniuses through, and we can’t quite penetrate into what the genius is thinking because the screen can’t quite penetrate. That also holds true with Poirot and Hastings.

Jill Carstens 44:10
It’s definitely similar to the reader and in like I said, in the last episode of the opposite of the crime solver, whoever that might be. At least Hastings is a lot less intellectual. You can easily see the difference between Poirot and Hastings.

Sarah Harrison 44:30
I feel like I can’t get a good read of Hastings. Would I have Hastings to a dinner party? I have no idea because I’m seeing Hastings through Hastings’ eyes. And every once in a while through something that he records Hercule Poirot saying, makes me realize he’s being stupid.

Jill Carstens 44:51
And the reactions of the other characters towards him are similar, right? Do we get to know him better and the other books?

Carolyn Daughters 44:59
Yes. Eventually I believe he gets married. We see various revolutions and evolutions of Hastings. He always seems to think highly of his own shrewdness. But he’s also narrating, so he’s in charge of the story. As Sarah would say, he’s such a ding-dong. If I were him, I would want to edit some of these details out.

Sarah Harrison 45:37
I still don’t think he knows that he was looking like the fool there. He’s just recording the facts.

Carolyn Daughters 45:46
I think he’d be great at a dinner party. He’s social, people like him.

Sarah Harrison 45:55
He’s going stay with the Cavendish family for his whole convalescence or something.

Carolyn Daughters 46:01
He fits in immediately. Oh, it’s tea time. Oh, it’s the cocktail hour. He’s great. I think he’d be wonderful at a party.

Sarah Harrison 46:22
Does Poirot have a best bud? Are Poirot and Hastings best friends?

Carolyn Daughters 46:27
I think so.

Sarah Harrison 46:29
I love what he said here about Hastings. I think Poirot is also being a little bit serious. At the end of chapter 13, when Hastings gets offended, everything comes out. And he realized, Poirot left him out of the loop. Poirot says, “I did not deceive you mon ami. At most, I permitted you to deceive yourself. You see, my friend, you have a nature so honest, and a countenance so transparent that to conceal your feelings is impossible. And Hastings is even offended at that, being seen as transparent. And Poirot says, “My friend. I implore you do not enrage yourself. It’s the extremely beautiful nature that you have.” Sometimes you’re like, what? And then other times I’m like, but it’s such a beautiful nature. And thank you for like thinking so many nice thoughts about me.

Carolyn Daughters 47:33
Poirot and Hastings are like a dating couple. Hastings is almost like a spurned girlfriend half the time. He gets upset at Poirot, so he’s like, Well, I’m not even going to go visit him. He waits for Poirot to show up and apologize. It felt at times a little childish. But also charming.

Sarah Harrison 47:57
It is a lovely thing when you meet someone that is almost innocent and transparent. And they’re very nice. Hastings liked everybody, except maybe Alfred. Even when he thought they were potentially murderers, he was rooting for them, which was appalling.

Jill Carstens 48:22
But that is his nature. He’s really the only one that was doing that. He was the only one with a generous and kind nature.

Sarah Harrison 48:26
They’re all unlikable and mean to each other and suspecting everyone else, and he’s just out there, liking people. Even trying to marry people.

Carolyn Daughters 48:39
Poirot and Hastings are a good pairing. Hastings is a good guy, and Poirot recognizes that. Before we close out, I want to hear from Jill. Tell us a little bit about your writing your art. Tell us what you’re up to.

Jill Carstens 49:09
Well, I’m working on finishing a memoir that’s based on my association with place and places I love and care, some that are gone now. And then I do write for publications around Colorado on various subjects. And my art has turned very abstract and colorful after I broke my leg back in November and was laid up for a while. I always enjoyed doing art. But I needed a less intense activity. It’s very joyful to do abstract art for me. I don’t know if that is for everybody. But I’ve greatly enjoyed doing that. Thank you for asking.

Carolyn Daughters 49:56
So @graphittirainbow.

Jill Carstens 50:00
That’s the art page on Instagram. It’s spelled kind of funny. It’s @graphittirainbow. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was trying to be different. And then some of my writing is on @lettersfrommissjill on Instagram also.

Carolyn Daughters 50:25
You write an advice column as well.

Jill Carstens 50:31
That’s actually my column in The Denver North Star newspaper, and that’s loosely advice. I just ponder and put out ideas. I usually point out a researcher or a book or an event that inspired me. The last one I wrote was about the show Family Affair. Do you remember that show? That I’m aging myself. It was a late 60s show. Brian Keith was in it. And he’s so handsome. And I’d never thought of him that way when I was a kid, but he’s a very handsome man, a wealthy, well off man in New York. He’s single, and he ends up adopting his brother’s children, and he ends up being a great parent. So I use him as a single dad, single dads can do it too. So that’s the next column.

Sarah Harrison 51:29
Sounds familiar, but I don’t know it. Though I’ve seen a lot of old shows.

Jill Carstens 51:34
That was something I ended up watching when I couldn’t do anything else after my surgeries. Oh, awesome. Then I started going, hey, this is actually a pretty good show. They’re good examples in good parenting, I thought.

Carolyn Daughters 51:53
The Mysterious Affair at Styles is also on Britbox (Amazon Prime). And David Suchet plays Poirot. Most episodes are around an hour long. This one’s a two-hour movie. It’s good. If they have a free week or month on Britbox, I highly recommend you binge as much Agatha Christie as you can.

Sarah Harrison 52:27
But not the ones that we’re gonna read. We’ve got The Murder of Roger Ackroyd coming up, which blew my mind the first time I read it, I was like, what? And then The Murder on the Orient Express will be later in the year.

Jill Carstens 52:49
I have to read both books now.

Sarah Harrison 52:52
So you are gonna read more Agatha Christie, Jill?

Jill Carstens 52:53
For sure. I’m hooked. I’m gonna want to read more.

Sarah Harrison 53:15
There’s only like 900 Agatha Christie books, isn’t there?

Jill Carstens 53:22
Two hundred something?

Sarah Harrison 53:56
Well, Poirot has been in 33 novels, but it doesn’t have a total for Agatha Christie.

Carolyn Daughters 54:11
This has been fun! Jill, thank you so much for being our guest.

Jill Carstens 54:16
Very fun. Got me to try Agatha Christie.

Sarah Harrison 54:20
All right, everyone stay mysterious!

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