Crooked House by Agatha Christie (1949)

Crooked House is one of Agatha Christie’s special favourites – she said that writing it was pure pleasure and she considered this book one of her best.

“I saved it up for years, thinking about it, working it out, saying to myself: ‘one day, when I’ve plenty of time, and want to really enjoy myself- I’ll begin it!’

There is no Poirot or Miss Marple, but there is Charles Hayward, a young man who comes back to England after five years war of service to ask Sophia Leonides, the woman he loves, to marry him.

But a problem arises. Sophia’s rich grandfather, Aristides, dies suddenly and his doctor suspects poison. With the whole household under a cloud, she will not accept Charles’ offer of marriage until the situation is resolved. If it ever can be.

Charles’ father is none other than Assistant Commissioner for Scotland Yard. The Leonides case, being under his jurisdiction, he suggests that Charles get information from the ‘inside’ – with Sophia’s full knowledge, of course. And so Charles is introduced to the family and ends up doing some detecting on the side.

I’d always taken a certain amount of interest in my father’s police work, but nothing had prepared me for the moment when I should come to take a direct and personal interest in it.

Crooked House is a clever story with a very surprising and unsettling end! Agatha Christie displays some psychological leanings in this book – the influence of hereditary being one:

‘Most people can deal with one weakness – but they mightn’t be able to deal with two weaknesses of a different kind.’

Charles asks his father if there is a ‘common denominator’ of murderers and he replies,

‘Yes, I’ve never met a murderer who wasn’t vain…It’s their vanity that leads to their undoing, nine times out of ten.’

Josephine Tey’s Inspector Grant made the same observation about the vanity of murderers in The Singing Sands and The Franchise Affair.

#2021 Summer Challenge

10 thoughts on “Crooked House by Agatha Christie (1949)

  1. i wonder who said it first, Grant or Hayward? i should look it up… it’s so nice reading books by Ms. Christie, sort of like spending time with a favorite aunt. it’s been a long time since i had the pleasure. i’ve got some of her mysteries; i’ll go look for one… tx!

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  2. I enjoyed this one too. I’ve read or seen adaptations of all her Miss Marple and Poirot stories, so its is fun to read her one-offs now. The ending is quite unsettling. It reminds me of a certain play, but if I said the title of it, it would give it away.

    The vanity of murderers is also the underpinning of the T.V. show Columbo with Peter Falk. I used to adore watching it and seeing how usually the bad guy would underestimate the lieutenant.

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  3. Very unsettling indeed, I was really shocked by the end. I don’t even remember reading any other book with that “feature” – using here a vague word to avoid spoilers to your readers.
    I am going to try to find the play Ruthiella is talking about, I’m intrigued.
    Agatha Christie is so amazing at finding so many different plots, there are no two alike. I’m in the process of listening to all of Hercule Poirot, a fascinating experience. I just finished The Labors of Hercules: a smart collection following the 12 labors, so cleverly done, and fun too! Besides, Hugh Fraser is an awesome narrator.

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    • I’m always surprised by her endings. Some detective/mystery plots I can figure out but never with AC. And I never would have guessed this one! She threw out too many deterrents.

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