2020-07-07

Agatha Christie 100 - Crooked House

Another one of Christie's psychological studies, this non-series novel features yet another one of her memorable families.


While in Egypt, Charles Hayward has made the acquaintance of Sofia Leonides, and when he's called away - he's a diplomat - they decide that they will meet up later in England. When Charles returns, it turns out that Sophia's grandfather has just been murdered, and the suspicions lie heavy on the members of the Leonides family. Since Charles's father is a high-ranking police officer, he is asked to snoop around a little.

I liked this a lot, it was one of the novels I was looking forward to most in this re-read, and in many ways it fulfilled my expectations. The final line of the penultimate chapter is extremely powerful.

But it is rather remarkable that I like it so much, because it's not much of a detection novel. If I remember correctly, there's one single physical clue to the killer's identity. Everything else is simply psychological, and in the end the identity of the murderer is just revealed, without anyone having detected who they are.

Otherwise, the main thing with this story is naturally precisely that, the identity of the murderer. It's one you probably never will forget, and it's also telling that there are very few similar murderers in other works by Golden Age authors. At this very moment, I can only recall one other such story. (Modern mystery writing, on the other hand, is full of murderers of this kind.)

I'm awarding this an excellent 92 out of 100. I was close to putting a perfect 100, but realised that the absence of any true detective work at all needs some penalising. To be honest, the only one acting as a detective at all is Chief Inspector Taverner and maybe the twelve year old daughter of the house, Josephine.


1950 1963 1966
1977 1985 1990
Konstiga huset is one of the possible translations of Crooked House and works well as a title, both in British and in Swedish. I guess the novel is a bit of an outlier in Christie's production, but it still has six different editions here in Sweden.

The 1950 cover is yet another of those semi-humorous covers from around that period. In this case, I find it kinda suitable and fitting. It's interesting to contrast with the 1963 cover, which doesn't do much differently, but still manages to look quite a bit worse.

The Fontana cover crops up with the 1966 Zebra edition, looking its vaguely sinister self. It's the one I own, and I like it quite a bit. But isn't it actually a bit spoiler-y? One of the items is not mentioned at all until the very end when we learn the killer's motive. For 1977's book club cover we get a closeup of Josephine looking through the doorway. It's not entirely distinguished, which I suppose is quite a feat for a book club cover.

The mid 80s cover also features Josephine - at least I think that's supposed to be her - and the house in the background, though it doesn't look all that crooked to me. An okay cover, nothing more. But the 1990 one I like! All perspectives are off and it truly suggests the topsyturviness of the house and its inhabitants. Nicely done.

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