Throughout my long partnership with Hercule Poirot, I have detailed many of his cases in which I personally took part; the first of which was the Styles case in the summer of 1917. In that account, I mentioned briefly that I had met him in Belgium prior to the Great War and that he had made such an impression on me that he remained at the forefront of my mind until our chance reunion in that small, unassuming village of Styles St. Mary. Much of the world believes that the Styles case was our first collaboration together; this is in fact quite untrue. The Styles case was merely the first case we encountered on English soil and in reality; Poirot and I had found ourselves under extraordinary circumstances working as, if you will pardon the phrase, partners in crime in Brussels four summers previously.
The case Poirot encountered there while he was still a detective in the Belgian Police is admittedly lacking in comparison to the cases he encountered later in private practice; the death of a diplomat in Brussels seems almost ludicrously commonplace with, for example, his life and death struggles with the Big Four. However, despite the humble and unusual beginning of our partnership, this one case affected me not only on a professional level with regard to crime and detection but more importantly on a personal and emotional one. In that warm summer in Belgium in 1913, my eyes were opened in more ways than I had ever possibly imagined and it is due to the events which transpired during that fateful summer that, twenty-three years later, I am still very much at the Belgian’s side.
A. J. M. Hastings
London, October 1936