Title: Crooked House
Author: Agatha Christie
First Publication date: 1949
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…
Crooked House by Agatha Christie is just one of many entertaining, intricate mysteries that her wondrous mind gifted us with. For the fans of the genre I can only image the pleasure and anticipation that grows inside of you as you turn page after page while your mind connects clue after clue – and still gets surprised at the end.
I am usually more of a fantasy type of girl but good books are good books, and good plots are my favorites. I haven’t read much of Agatha Christie (yet!) but it is easy to say that she is incapable of building a straight-forward, easy-to-guess plot. Her stories make you think, make you wonder, make you want to know – even if you don’t like most of the characters (guilty as charged).
Crooked House follows the murder of Aristide Leonides, a eighty-something man that lives with his new, fifty years younger wife, two surviving sons, their families, and his first wife’s sister. It’s a full house no matter how you look at it and it looks like nobody is beyond suspicion from the police and the young Charles Heyward who is helping them with the investigation.
After reading Dead Man’s Folly I had a clear plan for this book. I read slowly, methodically to prove to myself and Christie that I could figure this out, that I could find the killer before the author helpfully unmasks them at the end. I thought I was doing pretty good up until the last 10 pages – I was down to two suspects and I was very sure of myself. But alas, it appears I am not as smart as I think I am. And this is what I admire most about Agatha Christie. She uses bits and pieces, half for relevance, half for confusion; she uses misdirection like a virtuoso and at the end you do not feel cheated or tricked. At the end you’re almost always ending with a sigh and the words ‘But of course. It was right there all along!’
There is one thing I don’t particularly like though – I’ve noticed this with all of her books that I have read so far – her characters. Maybe it’s because of the time the books are set in, maybe it’s just the characters themselves. But they are all either annoying, either overly-dramatic or stupid. Charles is so naive and shirt-sighed and he is supposed to be the main character; the police are made to look positively useless and each other relevant character, while very unique in its own way, made me annoyed. Maybe the annoyance came from the fact that I was agitated for not being able to figure out the killer’s identity, maybe it is just that they were annoying.
Good thing the intrigue and the mystery had me wrapped around its finger or I would have tossed away the book for the characters alone. For that reason I’ll give it solid 4/5 rating. Amazing read still.
What about you? What rating would you give? What are your thoughts and takes on Crooked House?