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Crooked House by Agatha Christie

Crooked House (1948)

by Agatha Christie

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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Unexpected twist ending. I suspected everyone, or so I thought, and I was still wrong. ( )
  SF_fan_mae | Jan 15, 2016 |
This was Agatha Christie's favourite among her novels, and as a reader it is easy to understand why. Christie is best known for her two sleuths, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, though this is a 'stand-alone' offering. The story is narrated by Charles Hayward, son of the Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard, and himself an ex-copper, or at least a former inspect at the Special Branch.

Towards the end of the Second World War Hayward had been based in Cairo where he had met, and fallen in love with, Sophia Leonides. Once the war is over they return to Britain and plan to be married. In the meantime Sophia returns to her family home in one of London's suburbs. As is so often the case throughout Christie's novels, three generations of the Leonides family live together in the house owned by wealthy patriarch Aristide Leonides. Shortly after her return home, however, Astride is dead, and it soon transpires that he has been murdered. As a consequence of the prominence of the victim, Scotland Yard becomes involved in the investigation and, predictably, Hayward is asked to help out.

When I was about thirteen or fourteen I read dozens of Agatha Christie's novels, one after another, in that slightly obsessive manner that adolescent boys so often have. I enjoyed them but devoured them simply at face value. Re-reading this one nearly forty years later I now recognise that there was a lot of social comment in her depictions of domestic life. There is a wry, understated satire to her works. Her books are, however, redolent of their time. For instance, Christie is perfectly happy to describe Josephine, the younger sister of Sophia, as 'a fantastically ugly child'. I doubt whether any modern novelist would care to be so brutal.

Christie's prose is never glossy but she has an almost journalistic knack of telling the story with the minimum of fuss. Her characterisations may now seem slightly clichéd, but she always maintains a simple verisimilitude. It is, however, with her plotting that she holds the reader's attention. This book is certainly no exception. The plot is tightly constructed, and the denouement comes as rather a shock, though the clues were all there.

I was very glad to have revisited this novel after so long, and I may well try my hand at several more from her prolific output. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Dec 4, 2015 |
  Brenada | Sep 13, 2015 |
It is easy, these days, to think of the classic country house mystery as passé. Trite. Derivative. But there was a time when this style of story was as fresh and popular as tales of domestic noir are today and the best proponents of the art form could enthrall and surprise even those readers who believed themselves experts in the genre. Agatha Christie penned dozens of variations on this theme but in CROOKED HOUSE, a novel she proclaims a personal favourite in her forward, she has outdone herself.

The setting is, of course, an English country house. When he first encounters Three Gables the book’s narrator, diplomat and son of the Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, Charles Hayward describes it as

It was incredible!…it had a strange air of being distorted…a cottage swollen out all proportion. It was like looking at a country cottage through a gigantic magnifying-glass. The slant-wise beams, the half-timbering, the gables, it was a little croooked house that had grown like a mushroom in the night!…It was a Greek restauranteur’s idea of something English.

Charles’ presence in the house is accepted easily as is the way of things in this type of story. I sometimes struggle to imagine any scenario of my own experience in which a virtual stranger would be given the kind of free reign that characters like Charles always receive when arriving on far-flung doorsteps but, as with all storytelling, you have to willingly suspend disbelief on at least some basic points. So, having ‘connections’ with the police and as the friend (and hopeful husband-to-be) of Sophia Leonides, whom he met in Egypt during the war, Charles is able to introduce the cast – or suspect pool if you prefer – to the reader in a surprisingly natural and believable way.

According to Christie she does not know how the Leonides family got into her head but once there “…like Topsy ‘they growed’“. It’s not hard to imagine that these people were with the author for some time before being brought to life on the page because they are more vivid than many of Christie’s characters. Even Aristide Leonides – who, in something of a departure for Christie, dies within the first dozen pages – is a fully-rounded individual. The Greek-immigrant patriarch of a relatively small family and the requisite number of hangers-on is very much a presence throughout the book. Variously loved, liked or respected by those around him, it is universally hoped that if the man has been murdered then ‘the right person’ is the culprit. Here, thankfully, no one seriously suggests the conveniently passing tramp, but most would be content to learn that any murder was committed by the octogenarian’s second, much, much younger, wife. Not that anyone genuinely hates Brenda Leonides but she is the closest thing to an outsider among the potential suspects and so would be the easiest murderer for the rest of the family to accept.

Of course everyone has a motive for wanting the old man dead but these are delicately teased out and some of them at least surprise with their sensitivity. Christie really does seem to have been giving more than her usual thought to the notion of exactly what it might be that would move someone to become a murderer. In some Golden Age puzzlers the reader is left with the sense that it doesn’t take much for the average person to start throwing poison around with abandon, but here Christie really explores the (far more likely) idea that becoming a murderer is not done with ease unless, perhaps, a person is mentally ill.

In the end CROOKED HOUSE is ‘just’ a deliberately puzzling whodunnit with a finite suspect pool and several twists designed to shock the reader. If that style of story is not your thing at all then there is probably nothing about this particular example that will make you change your mind. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind a classic whodunnit as long as it is well done then I highly recommend CROOKED HOUSE. It puts the vast majority of this type of tale, including some of Christie’s own, to shame in the way it is constructed and while it shares may tropes of the genre it does break with a few traditions. Most pleasingly from my perspective there is no awkward and unbelievable denouement (I can never quite buy the way those play out) and I think that even if the identity of the culprit is deduced beforehand, the actual resolution will surprise most readers satisfactorily.
  bsquaredinoz | Jun 16, 2015 |
Having read numerous Agatha Christie books, I can safely say Crooked House is one of my favorite top five among her books. The story is of one big happy family living together in grand mansion. The head of the family is 88-year-old Aristide Leonides, who is poisoned by one of the family member. Aristide’s granddaughter Sofia’s fiancé Charles put his head together with police to find out the identity of killer.

Agatha Christie is just amazing as an author in this book. The family relations are analysed (the one thing I love best about her books), shocking revelations are made. It seems everyone has some secret hiding and all their secrets come out in open. There is greed, there is selfishness, and there is pride and vanity. Money seemed like a motive at times. At other times, freedom of living life without interference of loved ones seemed like a motive enough for murder. Relationships are tested and trust is shattered. Christie kept readers guessing about the identity of the killer until the end. When finally killer is revealed, one is left awed by the marvelousness of Christie’s grasp on the plot. The ending was chilling. However, it seemed very plausible. I simply loved this book. ( )
  Hanneri | Jul 20, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Agatha Christieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anna RojkowskaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ballot, CarmenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cal, Stella deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Correy, Michael P.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dausset, SylvieIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dias, ManuelCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duurloo, EllenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eckardt, HansSprechersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
FeBland,DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
FlipIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horovitch, DavidReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Houbie, Michel LeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jaskari, JuhaniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jaskari, Juhani(KÄÄnt.)secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Looman, HeikiIllustreerija.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Niinepuu-Kiik, PiretIllustreerijasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piirimaa, MattiTÕlkija.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rojkowska, AnnaTł.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seeberg, Axel S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Segurado, Maria GeorginaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tylden-Wright, JennyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
WÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I first came to know Sophia Leonides in Egypt towards the end of the war.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031298166X, Mass Market Paperback)

In the sprawling, half-timbered mansion in the affluent suburb of 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 beauty fifty years his junior, set to inherit a sizeable fortune, and rumored to be carrying on with a strapping young tutor comfortably ensconced in the family estate. But criminologist Charles Hayward is casting his own doubts on the innocence of the entire Leonides brood. He knows them intimately. And he's certain that in a crooked house such as Three Gables, no one's on the level...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:29 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In the sprawling, half-timbered mansion in the affluent suburb of 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 beauty fifty years his junior, set to inherit a sizeable fortune, and rumored to be carrying on with a strapping young tutor comfortably ensconced in the family estate. But criminologist Charles Hayward is casting his own doubts on the innocence of the entire Leonides brood. He knows them intimately. And he's certain that in a crooked house such as Three Gables, no one's on the level...… (more)

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