Name: Crooked House
Author: Agatha Christie
Number of Pages: 259 (ebook)
Published: February 10th 2010 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published March 1949)
Genre: Mystery, Crime
The Leonides are one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That is until the head of the household, Aristide, is murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection.
Suspicion naturally falls on the old man’s young widow, fifty years his junior. But the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiancé of the late millionaire’s granddaughter.
Crooked House introduces the Leonides family, and their mansion-like home Three Gables. Charles Hayward hopes to marry Sophia Leonides, but all is thrown into array when the head of the family, Aristide Leonides, is murdered. Sophia’s suspicions lead her to suspect someone other than Aristide’s wife, a woman much younger than him rumoured to be romantically involved with someone else. Sophia believes it may have been someone else within the family group, and she will not rest until she has the answer as to who killed her grandfather. And so Charles ventures to Three Gables to try and help her find the resolution she needs.
Three Gables itself, the way it’s described, is a marvellous setting for this murder mystery. It’s a unique, vast estate, described as a looking like a distorted cottage, swollen out of all proportion, built the size of a castle, a crooked house like a mushroom grown in the night. Three Gables houses several branches of the Leonides family under it’s massive roof, and they all have their own portions, so it’s almost like several separate homes all in one place. A house divided? It certainly seems like that.
There are so many people to suspect, even though the cast of characters is for the most part limited to the one family, because each of these branches has something going on – expensive theatre productions to stage, a business falling into trouble, people who want more, people who want less, and Charles, as an associate of the police but also as Sophia’s potential suitor, meets them all and tries to weigh up just who could have committed the crime.
Any of these people could theoretically have done it, the opportunity and means were certainly there, whilst on the surface it seems they have no reason to commit such a crime. They all live reasonably comfortable lives and had the support of Aristide in their many endeavours. There’s certainly a lot to speculate about as Charles encounters each member of the family.
The tension builds slowly as the story progresses, offering up an array of potential suspects before each is eliminated and some new revelation comes to light. When it becomes apparent there may be more danger in the future, that the murderer may not be done, the tension mounts towards a conclusion that I didn’t anticipate. I always enjoy it when the final reveal takes me by surprise, and I enjoyed Crooked House with it’s great setting and a cast of characters to keep you guessing throughout.