Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 50% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Listen with Prime Shop now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars90
4.5 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 2 June 2013
Aristide Leonides, patriarch of the family that lives in the crooked house of the title, has been poisoned, and suspicion has fallen on his much younger wife. Of course, this is an Agatha Christie novel, and Agatha Christie is renowned for things not necessarily turning out as they first appeared. Except maybe that's what you're supposed to think, so maybe you should be double-guessing yourself after all...

There are 80 crime novels and short story collections by Agatha Christie (the Mary Westmacott books don't really interest me) and working through them in a broadly-chronological fashion this is the fiftieth that I have read. It was a milestone seemed worth marking, but nobody attended the party I threw, so I thought I'd finally write a review of one of her books instead. Although it has to be said that there's really not too much more I can say without giving up some plot points better kept under wraps, but I'll try my best.

It will come as no surprise that after fifty books I'm something of a Christie apologist, and so found much to enjoy here, but I wouldn't necessarily support her assertion in the foreword that this ranks among the top file of her output (where I'd personally include The Seven Dials Mystery,Peril at End House,Murder Is Easy and, of course, And Then There Were None). She claims it was a joy to write, and it shows - the plot is as sleek and effortless as anything I've ever read by her - but I missed the rococo flourishes of the titles above (and more besides) that make her books such great puzzles.

The clues provided are sparse but fair, with the focus much more on the psychology of the crime (not unlike The Hollow) that the tricksy workings. I'm not going to discuss the solution - nothing mars the enjoyment of this sort of book more than a reviewer trying to be too clever with what they reveal - but it's yet another example of the sort of freshness that Christie brought to her writing. A lot of golden age writers don't really get the credit they deserve for the trails they blazed (these days people seem much more hung up on how the language or attitudes in a book published 60 years ago now appear dated...), and the fact that Christie was still (this far into her career) racking her brain to think up inventive solutions is a marvel. There, I'll say no more.

As a fiftieth book, there's plenty here to retain my interest in the remaining thirty - incidentally, I'd put this in a par with Evil Under the Sun,One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, and The Murder at the Vicarage. It will be a sad day indeed when I have none left, but then I imagine that going back through knowing the solutions (I find it remarkably hard to forget the solutions to crime novels) will probably be a new kind of fun altogether.
0Comment|7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 17 October 2005
Apparently "Crooked House" was one of the few books that Agatha Christie herself was truly satisfied with upon its completion. Certainly it's an entertaining romp around the totally dysfunctional family of Aristide Leonides and there's many an amusing character to enjoy.
Charles Hayward is a young man making his way with a promising career with the foreign office. In a posting to Egypt he meets the beautiful Sophia Leonides and the two fall in love. Charles plans to marry Sophia but the couple decide to give themselves time to see if their feelings for each other are strong enough. After a gap Charles meets Sophia back in London but tragedy has struck the Leonides family as Sophia's grandfather and the family's patriarch Aristide has been found murdered in his house. Sophia feels that until the cloud of suspicion is lifted from the family she cannot marry Charles.
Charles's father is none other than the Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard and along with Chief Inspector Taverner he is sent to the family home in Swinly Dean to see if there are any clues to come to light whilst being "an insider". The family home is a curious building of three separate dwellings comprised into one building, giving it the nick name of "Crooked House". In one part lives Sophia's parents, her remote father Philip, her excitable and effected mother Magda and her sulky brother Eustace and sneaky sister Josephine. Upstairs lives Philip's brother the hearty but incompetent Roger and his wife the cold and calm Clemency.
As far as Sophia's immediate family are concerned the person most likely to have committed the crime is Aristide's second wife Brenda who was 50 years younger than her ex-husband. She is supposedly having an affair with the children's tutor the limp and insipid Lawrence, but to Charles Brenda strikes a very pathetic figure and he suspects the murderer is someone else.
The maze of clues and red herrings is as strong as ever and this book benefits with Charles "the detective" working alongside the police but also having unlimited access to the other family members via his relationship with Sophia. That said Sophia herself is a most unsympathetic and unlikeable character and I guess I won't be the first reader to suspect her of the crimes herself.
0Comment|22 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 29 January 2001
One of the best and most original murder mysteries that I've read, the family around which the whole plot revolves are all astoundingly different, they add their own tensions to an already confused situation, the murder victim is someone we should never like but do, in fact its even possible to have sympathy with the gold digger wife. The ending took me completely by suprise, altogether one of my most enjoyable reads this year.
0Comment|24 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 4 December 2015
This was Agatha Christie's favourite among her novels, and as a reader it is easy to understand why. Christie is best known for her two sleuths, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, though this is a 'stand-alone' offering. The story is narrated by Charles Hayward, son of the Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard, and himself an ex-copper, or at least a former inspect at the Special Branch.

Towards the end of the Second World War Hayward had been based in Cairo where he had met, and fallen in love with, Sophia Leonides. Once the war is over they return to Britain and plan to be married. In the meantime Sophia returns to her family home in one of London's suburbs. As is so often the case throughout Christie's novels, three generations of the Leonides family live together in the house owned by wealthy patriarch Aristide Leonides. Shortly after her return home, however, Astride is dead, and it soon transpires that he has been murdered. As a consequence of the prominence of the victim, Scotland Yard becomes involved in the investigation and, predictably, Hayward is asked to help out.

When I was about thirteen or fourteen I read dozens of Agatha Christie's novels, one after another, in that slightly obsessive manner that adolescent boys so often have. I enjoyed them but devoured them simply at face value. Re-reading this one nearly forty years later I now recognise that there was a lot of social comment in her depictions of domestic life. There is a wry, understated satire to her works. Her books are, however, redolent of their time. For instance, Christie is perfectly happy to describe Josephine, the younger sister of Sophia, as 'a fantastically ugly child'. I doubt whether any modern novelist would care to be so brutal.

Christie's prose is never glossy but she has an almost journalistic knack of telling the story with the minimum of fuss. Her characterisations may now seem slightly clichéd, but she always maintains a simple verisimilitude. It is, however, with her plotting that she holds the reader's attention. This book is certainly no exception. The plot is tightly constructed, and the denouement comes as rather a shock, though the clues were all there.

I was very glad to have revisited this novel after so long, and I may well try my hand at several more from her prolific output.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 October 2014
Crooked House was first published in 1949 and was one of Christie's own favourites among her books. She was fond of titling her books after popular nursery rhymes and this one is based on the one called "There Was a Crooked Man". One of the characters, Sophia refers to it in the story, saying that their home was crooked because they had been unhealthily warped by the dominance of it Aristide, the patriarch of their family. There is crookedness on other levels, too, as it turns out, both financial and personal.
The narrator, Charles Hayward, is engaged to Sophia Leonides. The Leonides family - all three generations of them - live together under Aristide's leadership. Aristide is poisoned by eserine, contained in his own eye medicine and Sophia refuses to marry until the killer is caught. It so happens that Charles' father is Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, and Charles is able to join the investigation alongside the investigating officer, Chief Inspector Taverner. Aristide's death is not the end of the violence as the plot twists and turns to a rather shocking conclusion. Christie put on record that she did not decide on the murderer in this book until she had written most of the plot; when she did this (as she quite often did) she was renowned for choosing the most unlikely among her characters as the killer. I leave you to decide whether she did so this time! Certainly, she made her choice to brilliant effect.
Christie's twin strengths of inspired plot construction and shrewd characterisation are in evidence. She enjoyed psychologically dissecting her characters and allowing that to be the basis of the plot. Apart from stereotyping the Greeks in an unflattering way (there was no political correctness in those days!) the plot is original and interesting. Christie does not write great prose, but she writes well enough to tell a good story and to create an atmospheric picture of life in the late forties.. This is one of her best novels.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 17 December 2000
As a huge Agatha Christie fan, this book lived up to all my expectations, the central caracters are well drawn and the setting as claustrophobic as ever, a wide and varieed group of people trapped together by cirucstance, as ever the ending was a complete suprise to me.
0Comment|8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 September 2014
Crooked House was first published in 1949 and was one of Christie's own favourites among her books. She was fond of titling her books after popular nursery rhymes and this one is based on the one called "There Was a Crooked Man". One of the characters, Sophia refers to it in the story, saying that their home was crooked because they had been unhealthily warped by the dominance of it Aristide, the patriarch of their family. There is crookedness on other levels, too, as it turns out, both financial and personal.
The narrator, Charles Hayward, is engaged to Sophia Leonides. The Leonides family - all three generations of them - live together under Aristide's leadership. Aristide is poisoned by eserine, contained in his own eye medicine and Sophia refuses to marry until the killer is caught. It so happens that Charles' father is Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, and Charles is able to join the investigation alongside the investigating officer, Chief Inspector Taverner. Aristide's death is not the end of the violence as the plot twists and turns to a rather shocking conclusion. Christie put on record that she did not decide on the murderer in this book until she had written most of the plot; when she did this (as she quite often did) she was renowned for choosing the most unlikely among her characters as the killer. I leave you to decide whether she did so this time! Certainly, she made her choice to brilliant effect.
Christie's twin strengths of inspired plot construction and shrewd characterisation are in evidence. She enjoyed psychologically dissecting her characters and allowing that to be the basis of the plot. Apart from stereotyping the Greeks in an unflattering way (there was no political correctness in those days!) the plot is original and interesting. Christie does not write great prose, but she writes well enough to tell a good story and to create an atmospheric picture of life in the late forties.. This is one of her best novels.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Crooked House was first published in 1949 and was one of Christie's own favourites among her books. She was fond of titling her books after popular nursery rhymes and this one is based on the one called "There Was a Crooked Man". One of the characters, Sophia refers to it in the story, saying that their home was crooked because they had been unhealthily warped by the dominance of it Aristide, the patriarch of their family. There is crookedness on other levels, too, as it turns out, both financial and personal.
The narrator, Charles Hayward, is engaged to Sophia Leonides. The Leonides family - all three generations of them - live together under Aristide's leadership. Aristide is poisoned by eserine, contained in his own eye medicine and Sophia refuses to marry until the killer is caught. It so happens that Charles' father is Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, and Charles is able to join the investigation alongside the investigating officer, Chief Inspector Taverner. Aristide's death is not the end of the violence as the plot twists and turns to a rather shocking conclusion. Christie put on record that she did not decide on the murderer in this book until she had written most of the plot; when she did this (as she quite often did) she was renowned for choosing the most unlikely among her characters as the killer. I leave you to decide whether she did so this time! Certainly, she made her choice to brilliant effect.
Christie's twin strengths of inspired plot construction and shrewd characterisation are in evidence. She enjoyed psychologically dissecting her characters and allowing that to be the basis of the plot. Apart from stereotyping the Greeks in an unflattering way (there was no political correctness in those days!) the plot is original and interesting. Christie does not write great prose, but she writes well enough to tell a good story and to create an atmospheric picture of life in the late forties.. This is one of her best novels.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 17 August 2014
Pretty good mystery. The story starts off really well building very good characters and exploring their interplay in a captivating manner. One will never guess the murderer though there are a few clues given that points to him or her if you are careful. I was, however, disappointed with who it turned out to be. The book left me wondering if the real murderer or murderess really got away with it, fooling all by framing the one they accused.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 17 March 2015
Yet another proof that Agatha Christie is a legend. Crooked House is a stand alone story, apart from the series of Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence etc. This one has criminologist Charles Hayward as the narrator. Charles tells us the story of his girlfriend and why she refused to marry him when he proposed. Agatha Christie has the tact of making something fabulous in the way of narrating a story.

The narration is flawless, the story is flawless, the characters are perfectly flawed, and the twist is admirable. You would never have seen it come, the way it came and hit you. Agatha Christie stories are those which are to be read when you want to know what real suspense / mystery / thrillers feel like. She paved the path for all mystery writers after her. The way her stories are – supple, intense, delicate and engulfing – describes an ideal mystery novel, like absolutely no one else can. And as for today’s mystery writers, there is only one thing to say – You can go high indeed, but you can never surpass your teacher, the one who lead the way.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.