My Book Notes: Crooked House, 1949 by Agatha Christie

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HarperCollins, Masterpiece Ed., 2010. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 606 KB. Print Length: 257 pages. ASIN: B0046A9MS6. eISBN: 9780007422234. First published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in March 1949 and in the UK by the Collins The Crime Club on 23 May of the same year. The action takes place in and near London in the autumn of 1947.

41Ocy3IFZzL._SY346_Author’s Foreword: ‘This book is one of my own special favourites. I saved it up for years, thinking about it, working it out, saying to myself: ‘One day, when I’ve plenty of time, and want to really enjoy myself–I’ll begin it!’ I should say that of one’s output, five books are work to one that is real pleasure. Crooked House was pure pleasure. I often wonder whether people who read a book can know if it has been hard work or a real pleasure to write?  Again and again someone says to me. ’How much have you enjoyed writing so and so!’ This about a book who obstinately refused to come out the way you wished, whose characters are sticky, the plot needlessly involved, and the dialogue stilted–or so you think yourself. But perhaps the author isn’t the best judge of his or her own work. However, practically all has liked Crooked House, so I am justified on my own belief that it is one of my best.
I don’t know what put the Leonides family into my head–they just came. Then, like Topsy, ‘they growed’.
I feel that I myself was only their scribe.’ (Agatha Christie)

First sentence: I first came to know Sofia Leonides in Egypt, towards the end of the war. She held a fairly high administrative post in one of the Foreign Office departments out there. I knew her first in an official capacity, and I soon appreciated the efficiency that had brought her to the position she held, in spite of her youth (she was at that time just twenty-two).

Synopsis: A wealthy Greek businessman is found dead at his London home… The Leonides were one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That was until the head of the household, Aristide, was 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…

About this story: The crooked house of the title is much like the house in the nursery rhyme There was a Crooked Man. The narrator, in love with a daughter of the household, wonders if this means dishonest or as she describes it “twisted and twining”, unable to grow up independently, all surrounding the family patriarch and murder victim. The shock ending was nothing new for Agatha Christie but it certainly surprised her readers. It was so shocking in fact that her publishers at the time wanted her to change the ending, but Christie refused. Crooked House was recently adapted for the screen by Sony Pictures. The film adaptation starring Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close and Max Irons aired in the UK and the US in 2017. Film Review: Crooked House (2017) – The Passing Tramp, and at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’. The story was previously adapted for a four-part radio drama on BBC Radio 4 in 2008. Audio Review: CROOKED HOUSE by Agatha Christie – Tipping My Fedora.

My Take: Not only Agatha Christie herself, but also the sadly late Noah Stewart (here), regarded Crooked House one of his favourite Christie’s novels. ‘A standalone mystery with a truly surprising plot twist at the end.’ I won’t contradict any of them. Perhaps, it would be best not to disclose much about this novel and let the readers figure it out for themselves. As the story opens, a young man meets a young woman in Egypt, while they both serve their country, the United Kingdom, during World War II. He promises to marry her when the war is over. Upon his return to England after the war, the newspapers report the death of his fiancée’s grandfather, a wealthy entrepreneur of Greek origin. Because of the blitz the entire family had taken shelter in his disproportionate home, a mansion called “Three Gables” on the outskirts of London. His death is somewhat suspicious and the autopsy confirms that he may have been murdered. In all likelihood it is a domestic issue and his fiancée decides to postpone their marriage until the whole matter is cleared out. Since the young man’s father is Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, the police find a way to keep a close eye on all the household members with his help. Anyone in the family could have been the murderer, but there are only suspicions, there is not enough evidence to be able to charge and arrest someone in particular. The story is told from the young man’s point of view.

To sum up, I would like to add it is a well worth read and I enjoyed reading it. An excellent entertaining.

Crooked House has been reviewed, among others, at Cross-Examining Crime, The Grandest Game in the World, The Green Capsule, reviewingtheevidence, ahsweetmysteryblog, Countdown John’s Christie Journal, Bitter Tea and Mystery, the crime segments, Past Offences,


(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets. Dodd, Mead & Company (USA) 1949)

About the Author: Agatha Christie is the world’s best-known mystery writer. Her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and another billion in 44 foreign languages. She is the most widely published author of all time in any language, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her writing career spanned more than half a century, during which she wrote 80 novels and short story collections, as well as 14 plays, one of which, The Mousetrap, is the longest-running play in history. Two of the characters she created, the brilliant little Belgian Hercule Poirot and the irrepressible and relentless Miss Marple, went on to become world-famous detectives. Both have been widely dramatized in feature films and made-for-TV movies. Agatha Christie also wrote romantic novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. As well, she wrote four non-fiction books including an autobiography and an entertaining account of the many expeditions she shared with her archaeologist husband, Sir Max Mallowan. Agatha Christie died in 1976. (Source: Fantastic Fiction)

Agatha Christie’s Standalone Novels: She wrote about 19 standalone novels (six under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott). The balance are: The Man in the Brown Suit [Colonel Race, #1] (1924); The Sittaford Mystery apa The Murder at Hazelmoor (1931); Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1934); And Then There Were None apa Ten Little Indians (1939); Death Comes as the End (1944); Sparkling Cyanide [Colonel Race, #4] (1945); Crooked House (1949); They Came to Baghdad (1951); Destination Unknown (1954); Ordeal by Innocence (1958); The Pale Horse [Ariadne Oliver, #5] (1961); Endless Night (1967); and Passenger to Frankfurt (1970).   

Harper Collins UK publicity page

HarperCollins US publicity page

Home of Agatha Christie website

Notes On Crooked House

The official Agatha Christie website


La casa torcida, de Agatha Christie

libro-1523892568Prólogo del autor: Este libro es uno de mis libros favoritos. Lo maduré durante años, dándole vueltas, planteándolo y diciéndome: ‘Un día, cuando tenga tiempo y quiera pasármelo realmente bien, ¡lo comenzaré!’. Debo decir que, de mi producción, por cada cinco libros que son solo trabajo, uno constituye un verdadero placer. La casa torcida fue uno de ellos. A menudo me gustaría saber si la gente que lee un libro percibe si escribirlo ha sido un trabajo duro o un placer. Son muchos los que e dicen: ‘¡Cuánto debe de disfrutar usted escribiendo esto o aquellol!’ Y se están refiriendo a un libro que se resiste con obstinación a salir como yo quisiera, cuyos personajes son difíciles, el argumento innecesariamente complicado y los diálogos afectados, o al menos eso es lo que pienso. Pero quizá el autor no sea el mejor juez de su propio trabajo. De todos modos, a casi todo el mundo le ha gustado La casa torcida, lo que justifica mi creencia de que es una de mis mejores novelas.
No sé qué fue lo que metió a la familia Leonides en mi cabeza: simplemente vinieron a mi. Después, como Topsy, “crecieron”.
Me parece que yo sólo fui su escriba. Agatha Christie. (Fuente: Editorial Espasa)

Primer párrafo: Conocí a Sofía Leónides en Egipto, hacia el final de la guerra. Ocupaba un puesto administrativo bastante importante en uno de los departamentos del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores en ese país. La conocí primero en su aspecto oficial y pronto pude apreciar la eficiencia que la había llevado hasta aquel puesto, a pesar de su juventud. (por aquella época acabada de cumplir veintidós años). (Traducción: Stella Maris de Cal. Fuente: Amazon)

Sinopsis: Tres generaciones de la familia del multimillonario griego Aristide Leonides conviven en Inglaterra bajo el mismo techo: una curiosa mansión de estructura inclinada. Una multitud de personajes se entremezcla en los pasillos y las estancias de la casa, incluidas la joven y hermosa Brenda, segunda esposa del anciano patriarca, y Sophia, su más avispada nieta, cuyo futuro suegro es comisario de policía. Sin embargo, la paz hogareña se trunca cuando Aristide es envenenado. Las sospechas recaen sobre todos los miembros de la familia. ¿Quién es el asesino? El misterio está servido. (Fuente: Editorial Espasa)

Acerca de esta historia: El título está tomado de una canción infantil: “There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile, He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile; He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse, And they all lived together in a little crooked house.” El narrador, enamorado de una hija de la familai, se pregunta si esto significa ser deshonesto o como ella lo describe “nocivamente interrelacionados”, incapaces de crecer independientemente, todos rodeando al patriarca de  la familia, a la víctima del asesinato. El final impactante no era nada nuevo para Agatha Christie, pero ciertamente sorprendió a sus lectores. De hecho, era tan impactante que sus editores en ese momento quisieron que ella cambiara el final, pero Christie se negó. Crooked House fue adaptada recientemente a la gran pantalla por Sony Pictures. La adaptación cinematográfica protagonizada por Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close y Max Irons se emitió en el Reino Unido y los Estados Unidos en el 2017. La historia fue adaptada anteriormente para laa radio en cuatro partes por BBC Radio 4 en el 2008.

Mi opinión: No solo la propia Agatha Christie, sino también el tristemente fallecido Noah Stewart, consideraba Crooked House una de sus novelas favoritas de Christie. “Un misterio independiente con una vuelta de tuerca realmente sorprendente al final“. No contradeciré a ninguno de ellos. Quizás sería mejor no revelar mucho sobre esta novela y dejar que los lectores lo averiguan por sí mismos. Cuando comienza la historia, un joven conoce a una joven en Egipto, mientras ambos sirven a su país, el Reino Unido, durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Promete casarse con ella cuando termine la guerra. A su regreso a Inglaterra, después de la guerra, los periódicos informan de la muerte del abuelo de su prometida, un acaudalado empresario de origen griego. A causa del bombardeo, toda la familia se había refugiado en su desproporcionada casa, una mansión llamada “Three Gables” en las afueras de Londres. Su muerte es algo sospechosa y la autopsia confirma que pudo haber sido asesinado. Con toda probabilidad se trata de un problema doméstico y su prometida decide posponer su matrimonio hasta que se aclare todo. Dado que el padre del joven es asistente del comisario en jefe de Scotland Yard, la policía encuentra la manera de vigilar de cerca a todos los miembros de la familia con su ayuda. Cualquiera de la familia pudo haber sido el asesino, pero solo hay sospechas, no hay pruebas suficientes para poder imputar y detener a alguien en particular. La historia está narrada desde el punto de vista del joven.

En resumen, me gustaría agregar que vale la pena leerlo y que disfruté leyéndolo. Un excelente entretenimiento.

Acerca del autor: Nacida en Torquay en 1890, Agatha Christie recibió la típica educación victoriana impartida por institutrices en el hogar paterno. Tras la muerte de su padre, se trasladó a París, donde estudió piano y canto. Contrajo matrimonio en 1914 y tuvo una hija, pero su matrimonio terminó en divorcio en 1928. Dos años después, durante un viaje por Oriente Medio conoció al arqueólogo Max Mallowan, con quien se casó ese mismo año; a partir de entonces pasó varios meses al año en Siria e Irak, escenario de Ven y dime cómo vives (Andanzas 50, ahora también en la colección Fábula) y de alguna de sus novelas policiacas, como Asesinato en Mesopotamia o Intriga en Bagdad. Además del gran éxito de que disfrutaron sus célebres novelas, a partir de 1953 ganó celebridad con las adaptaciones teatrales de sus novelas en el West End londinense. En 1971 le fue concedida la distinción de Dame of the British Empire. Murió en 1976. (Fuente: Planeta de libros)

My Book Notes: Agatha Christie’s Standalone Novels (Revised)


If I’m right, it is widely accepted Agatha Christie wrote twenty nineteen standalone novels, of which six were romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. The rest, among which we may find some of her best novels, are:

  1. The Man in the Brown Suit (1924) (Colonel Race, #1), though in my view Colonel Race merits are not enough to be considered a “series character”.
  2. The Sittaford Mystery apa The Murder at Hazelmoor (1931)
  3. Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1934)
  4. And Then There Were None apa Ten Little Indians (1939)
  5. Death Comes as the End (1944)
  6. Sparkling Cyanide (1945) (Colonel Race, #4), though in my view Colonel Race merits are not enough to be considered a “series character”.
  7. Crooked House (1949)
  8. They Came to Baghdad (1951)
  9. Destination Unknown (1954)
  10. Ordeal by Innocence (1958)
  11. The Pale Horse (1961) (Ariadne Oliver, #5), though in my view Ariadne Oliver merits are not enough to be considered a “series character”.
  12. Endless Night (1967)
  13. Passenger to Frankfurt (1970)

So far I’ve read Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?; And Then There Were None; Sparkling Cyanide; Crooked House; The Pale Horse; and Endless Night. Even though, in some cases, my book notes are still outstanding, but will be ready soon. Besides I look forward to reading The Man in the Brown Suit; The Sittaford Mystery; Death Comes as the End; They Came to Baghdad; and Ordeal by Innocence. I’m less incline to read the rest, for the time being. Stay tuned.

Colonel Race and Ariadne Oliver often use to show up in other Christie’s book series, thus I don’t considered them a “series character” by their own merits. On the other hand, even if Superintendent Battle join forces with Hercule Poirot, Ariadne Oliver, and Col. Race in Cards on the Table, he has enough entity in his other four books The Secret of Chimneys, The Seven Dials Mystery, Murder Is Easy and Towards Zero to be considered a “series character”.

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