Crooked House by Agatha Christie

(No Series)

In a sprawling mansion in affluent Swinly Dean, Aristide Leonides lies dead from barbiturate poisoning. An accident? Not likely. In fact, suspicion has already fallen on his luscious widow, a cunning, much-younger beauty rumored to have been engaged in an illicit affair. But criminologist Charles Hayward, who’s in love with the dead man’s granddaughter Sophia, has his suspicions about the whole unsavory Leonides clan. Can he solve the puzzle without implicating Sophia? Christie considered this novel, dramatically read by Hugh Fraser, one of her best.

In Crooked House there are ten suspects and three investigators. The main surrounding plot, I suspect, concerns the young Charles Hayward's love with Sophia, one of the relatives of the deceased. His father is the assistant commissioner of Scotland Yard and prime detective on the case. Because of this 'love', Charles feels compelled to get to the bottom of things when the unfortunate death occurs, in part to uncover the truth, but also to be able to ask for Sophie's hand in marriage.

You would think they are the main characters, but not really, as the story jumps around smoothly to everyone. Charles love for Sophia is a bit unrealistic but this seemed to be the way of novels back in the day (and who knows, maybe real life). I can't say I felt any budding compassion for the young couple's romantic future, even if I did like them enough individually.

The plot of suspects is a heady, complex one. All reside in the house and have opportunity, but motives are not as easily clear. Ready for a headache?

The logical finger points to the widow, Brenda, for she has the fortune to inherit, but is she being framed? It doesn't help the youngest of the house is a budding detective who inadvertently interferes every step. Sophia's mother is an actress type who is impossible to believe and enjoys being more dramatic than the situation warrants. Sophia's father is cold, hard man with a stunning temper and rightful resentment. Edith the sister-in-law hated the dead man but it's showed had a bizarre love for him as well - is this enough of a motive, or is there even more? Roger is the oldest son with another violent temper. Laurence Brown, the tutor, seems to be in love with the widow, what a motive there! Could he and Brenda even have been in on it together? What about the strange Eustace, the youngest brother? And, of course, there is Sophia, the love interest herself.

As usual it's difficult to guess who the villain is. More people end up dying later of course, as is typical mystery. It's always fun to think someone did it, only to find them dead. The mystery comes clear at the end and sadly I guessed the guilty culprit beforehand ( I almost never do with her stuff), but the ride there makes up disappointment. The fascinating bunch with their motives and secrets to uncover, their suspicions of others, and their odd eccentricities was great fun. Even though I'm sorry I pre-guessed the truth, the final pages hold a small shocking follow-up for other readers like me. One of Christie's great ones :)

   Book Quotes:

"There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house."

   Similar Reviews: