Book Review: Crooked House

In yet another Agatha Christie novel with a psychological undercurrent, Sophia explains to her fiancé Charles that as a family they have been heavily influenced by the strong personality of her octogenarian grandfather Aristide Leonide. Hence the twisted, twining and crooked. But what if he is killed and done away with? Things could get rather interesting, you say? Absolutely! And that's exactly what happens in Crooked House when the family patriarch is found dead, following which Charles decides to find the culprit with the help of his Old Man, a Scotland Yard policeman.

Crooked House
There is your usual Rolodex of suspects, with the suspicion naturally falling on Aristide's young widow Brenda, 50 years his junior, even if Charles is not convinced and feels it's got to be somebody else who enjoys talking about the murder and never for a minute stays away from the limelight it offers. There's Philip, who is slighted by Aristide's preference to his younger brother Roger, his actress wife Magda, who enjoys a bit of fuss and drama in real life, and their three children - the level headed Sophia, the ever inquisitive Josephine, and Eustace. Also in the mix are Roger, a simpleton and a stark contrast to Philip, his wife Clemency, who worships the ground he walks on and is willing to sacrifice anything for his sake, aunt Edith, who may be nursing hatred against Aristide for marrying Brenda despite her sense of acute judgement, and finally the children's instructor Laurence, who may be having a clandestine affair with Brenda.

The mystery on the whole is well-developed, in addition to it being an interesting character study, but the one thing I liked the least about the novel was the protagonist himself. He is neither a police officer nor a seasoned private investigator, and why on earth would a Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner let a complete stranger, let alone his son, investigate the case is beyond me, for he looks utterly clueless against the insurmountable odds. But if this naivety was intentional, the authoress quite succeeds in her mission to ratchet up the suspense levels as the narrative goes forward. Considered as one of Christie's own favorite novels, Crooked House is an ingeniously concocted tale of psychological fiction and time well spent.