The challenge this month was to read a title set after World War 2 with the recommendation from agathachristie.com being this standalone which in the Foreword the author claims as being one of her favourites which she planned for years.
I’m quite surprised by this because it feels to me fairly standard Christie, maybe a stronger literary feeling than some of her works yet lacking a little in tension. Her narrator Charles is effective in that he is able to observe situations both from those involved in the crime committed and those involved in the solving of it as his father is Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard.
When his girlfriend’s wealthy grandfather Aristide Leonides is believed to be murdered Charles decamps down to Swinley Dean and the Crooked House of the title to see what he can find out. Sophia’s family have not met him before but they conveniently embrace him and soon trust him with confidences rather than seeing him as the outsider with police associations which he actually is. This gives him a good position in the middle of the situation. It’s obvious that Christie is using nursery rhymes as a device, here the “There Was A Crooked Man”, as she does in a number of her books but I do not really see how it fits in despite it being quoted in full in the third chapter. I would have thought that if she was going to use this she would have made more of it than she has (as she did in “A Pocket Full Of Rye” (1953)).
The family are all suspects giving this crime a very domestic feel. Sophia’s mother, Magda, steals scenes with her dramatics and her brother and sister Eustace and Josephine are distinctly odd (the younger generation damaged by the uncertainties of the war years?). Grandfather married a woman a fraction of his age not long before his death so it is no stretch of the imagination to see who the family thinks bumped him off.
It is enjoyable throughout but I wouldn’t consider it amongst Christie’s best works and of the 11 read for the challenge I would put it around mid-way. Next month the theme to finish off this year long reading challenge is a book set in bad weather.
Crooked House was published in 1949. I read the Harper Collins e-book edition.