Frustration & The Crooked House

I just finished Hugh Fraser's Audio adaptation of The Crooked House.  I've never been so frustrated with a Christie mystery, unless, of course, it was Roger Ackroyd.

It had me completely going around in circles. I just wasn't looking for every possibility.

Frustrated, as I was , I'm still completely in awe of how Mrs. Christie could be so innovative, so many times over.

I'm sorry to say that my frustration rather hampered my enjoyment of the story. Nevertheless I enjoyed the characterizations, and the red herrings. However, I found the love story to be rather weak.

I would be curious to see what others think of this story and if they were as frustrated by it as me.


  • I can't speak for the frustration, since I can almost never identify the villain. But I did find the ending plausible, if tragic. As for the love affair - I really liked that the intelligent, active, educated young man could completely fall in love with such a strong, effective woman. The fact that there isn't a lot of "lovering" I put down to the "Anglo-Saxon manners" of not exposing feelings. In the end of "The secret Adversary" AC makes fun of this, when Tommy and Tuppence have reached the point of declaration and are completely tongue-tied.
  • It would be interesting to read Crooked House, and then The Moving Finger, and see the contrast between Jerry who lets his feelings run away with him in TMF, and the protaganist in TCH who is restrained. I think the Second World War would have affected the way lovers behaved. Perhaps they would have longed for security, and someone comfortable, and the sights of war would have turned them away from frivolous romance. 
  • Griselda, I can't fit the war's effect as you described it with the difference you mentioned between the books. TMF was written during WW2 and after the blitz (published in '42), so according what you said, you would expect the romance to be calmer and less frivolous, but it is frothy and light-hearted.  TCH was published in 49, after England had begun to recover from the war austerities, and yet the romance is more sober. Could it be that during the war AC felt (probably justifiably) that people wanted escape into lighter stories, while after the war (and after the knowledge of the horrors of the holocaust) people were more sober and less escapist?
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I liked The Crooked House 2nd time.
  • I think Jerry wants to seize the moment, and to give Megan security because of the uncertainty abounding. His, what we felt, were callous comments at the end about the maid and Mrs Symington's deaths, and it not being such a waste of lives, was an attitude, again, brought on by seeing so much death, perhaps. I think the other romance in The Crooked House, is probably how upper middle class people either were, or liked to think they were, and Agatha Christie has this great yen for a way of behaving which is unsentimental. She probably was a bit of a snob, and liked her romances dignified. As Jane Austen did too - all the sense rather than the sensibility. She equates it with being admirable, and, generally, at the time, to be such was probably equated with good breeding. I suppose it is the lower orders who got all soppy over each other, and met each other to kiss in moonlit lanes, like the post office assistant and her suitor in 'Mrs McGinty's Dead', or the maid, Gladys, in Pocket Full of Rye.  She loves the unromantic understatement, and I suppose it fits with the rationalist tradition she started off following. I think that in Cold Comfort Farm, by another writer, the heroine talks to her beau about decades of friendship, when foreshadowing what their marriage will be like. I think it might have been in Elephants Can Remember that somebody remarks that a couple 'enjoyed their marriage.' And in that novel, the young woman talks about liking her young man, or being fond of him. It is all very sober, and practical. Just the idea of not being able to see each other for about two years, during war, but thinking you will marry anyway. Imagine the certainty, or, at least, confidence, that they won't find someone else. The lack of desperation and self-respect is appealing to our modern viewpoint, at a time where famous celebrities feel they have to have their photographs in the press every day, in flattering clothes to remind their loved ones that they are really hot, and millions of fans think so too.
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    The first time I read it, I didn't like very much. I was frustated too, because I've never considered that person could be the murderer. But I gave it a second chance and I enjoyed a lot. I appreciated the details that I missed the first time. And, nowadays, I love this book. It's one of my favorites. Although I still thinking it's a kind of disturbing. But A.C. is a genius!
  • I thought TCH was influenced by "The bad Seed" by William March - but it turns out TBS was published 5 years after TCH. So I guess the original idea was Agatha Christie, and W. March built on it.
  • The murderer in Crooked House is the most disturbing one out of all Agatha Christie's books, in my opinion.  The book is weak in the narration as far as the plot is concerned.  However, I enjoy the books that have the families living together, and the history of the old man intrigues me.  I was sorry he got murdered and even sorrier when I found out who did it.  The clues are in the story, and even though this would be one of the most obvious solutions to figure out in all her books because she pretty much tells us the whole entire time, I didn't even consider the possibility of who the murderer really was.
  • I agree, the discovery of who the murderer was is very disturbing. But for me, no less disturbing was the whole setup - the kind, capable old family man, who has practically crippled his whole family by supporting them and not cutting them loose to make their own mistakes and develop their own confidence and sense of self worth. AC really brought that aspect to life in this book. The damage done by an over-controlling parent seems to be a subject she was concerned about - I think I mentioned somewhere that it also appears in "Ordeal by Innocence", and in a different, evil way, in "Appointment with Death".
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I found it very disturbing when I read it in my late Teens, It was at least 2 Decades until I read it again.
  •  The damage done by an over-controlling parent seems to be a subject she was concerned about - I think I mentioned somewhere that it also appears in "Ordeal by Innocence", and in a different, evil way, in "Appointment with Death".
    I'm glad that you said that, because I have always considered the dark books Ordeal By Innocence and Appointment with Death to be almost too hard to revisit.  I rarely read them, because the family abuse is so disturbing.  However, I never considered Crooked House in the same way, since the old man was more benevolent in his motives and never really bothered me in the same way as the parents in the other books.  I agree that the book can be likened to the other two, now that I have thought about it, and I'm surprised that I never realized it before.  I am always finding ways to group the books, but that one got past me.
  • I feel that in "Crooked house", the damage done by the benevolent ruler is perhaps the most tragic, because it is benevolent. Perhaps the most extreme case is Magda. She is an actress - she has both the talent and the drive to act. But - she can't take direction - she is a prima donna, so she doesn't get a lot of roles. She can afford to be that way, because she has Leonides' money to fall back on. But since she has the drive to act, she takes it out on her family, emphasizing Eustace's misery and Josephine's "changeling" looks and personality, treating them both like extras in a play, with perfect acting and a total lack of empathy, and completely warping their personalities. Without the money, she would have either had do knuckle down under a director's instructions and BE an actress in real life (that is real plays) or admit that she can't act. Roger too is tragic - because his father's love and trust has forced him into a position he is unsuited to fill, he is doomed to a life of failure, not just of feeling himself a total loser but also feeling guilty at disappointing his beloved father. Philip feels constantly unloved and rejected for Roger, even though Roger actually has a worse life - doing what he is no good at, while Philip can pursue his interests. It seems that no one in the crooked house is happy or has self esteem.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I also find Ordeal by Innocence and Crooked House hard to revisit, I would definitely would consider stop reading them at some stage but they do balance out the more fun books and there are books that are neither fun or hard to revisit that I would stop reading 1st. 
  • MohanMohan Chennai
    Strangely I've never had a problem with revisiting Ordeal by Innocence or Appointment with Death. Crooked Holmes to me wasn't very dark either but while I enjoyed it, I didn't find it particularly convincing. It's a different matter that my mother who was instrumental in introducing me to the world of Christie was simply OUTRAGED when she came to know the murderer! 

    I would say in my opinion, the really dark books are And Then There Were None and Endless Night. Maybe Nemesis as well, and of course Curtain  
Sign In or Register to comment.