Crooked House, by Agatha Christie - The Butler Didn't Do It
It all started last winter, when I went to watch Knives Out in the theater with my friends. I was excited to see a new, witty Murder Mystery with such an all-star cast. You see, I’ve always felt that Mansion Murder Mysteries were a little cliche. The rich patriarch is murdered, every family member has a motive, the least likely suspect is inevitably the killer.
But I had high hopes for the headlining cast and the snippets of witty script that were featured in the trailers, so I went to see it. And I wasn’t disappointed.
As it so often happens, two studios simultaneously released Mansion Murder Mystery Movies that winter. The second one, Crooked House, was based upon an Agatha Christie book, so I expected to enjoy it even more than Knives Out. The Crooked House cast included Glenn Close and Terence Stamp.
I was shocked to realize that the characters and plot devices were nearly identical, even down to the Mysterious Mansion Murder Method (switching a diabetic’s insulin with a toxic substance)!
Obviously, Crooked House had been written first, so the guilty plagiarizing party was whoever had written the script for Knives Out, but I had to confess that this latter script was more entertaining, at least cinematically. Nothing against Glenn Close; but Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Jamie Lee Curtis all together performed with excellent humor.
With very few exceptions, I tend to prefer the book version over the cinematic version of a story. If you are a follower of this page, I’m guessing that you generally agree with me on this. So I picked up Agatha Christie’s Crooked House book to see how it compared to the movie.
I’m happy to report that not only is it better than the Crooked House full movie, it is perhaps even better than Knives Out! Read on and let me know in the comments if you agree!
The Bad: Fairly Formulaic
So the plot unfolds in a predictable, step-by-step fashion. This isn’t necessarily bad—it’s a formula that works, and audiences love it.
The family patriarch dies, leaving behind a fortune.
The family squabbles amongst themselves, and distrust anyone outside the family.
The household servants are suspects.
There is a second murder (there always is).
The murderer is always the one you least suspect.
The formulaic storyline might be truly unbearable if it weren’t for the meta-narrative voice of the adorable little girl in the story, who has read every Murder Mystery book ever written, and predicts each plot element before the reader gets to it!
The Good: Excellent Diversion of Suspicion
You can tell a good Murder Mystery by counting how many times the suspicion is successfully directed at innocent parties. And in this regard, Crooked House does not disappoint.
As the title perhaps suggests, this mansion is full of Crooked People.
And you remember how the murderer is always the person you least suspect? The best way to solve that problem is to shift suspicion (and innocence) around to all of the characters, like chess pieces in a high stakes match.
The Recommendation: 5 / 5 Stars.
I honestly don’t know how I can give Agatha Christie less than five stars. If she has written a bad mystery, I haven’t read that one yet! I really enjoyed the way the plot developed, and accusations flew, and when the second murder happened… well, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for you!
If you are an Agatha Christie fan, please let us know in the comments below! And if you have a favorite book of hers, recommend it for my next review! And don’t forget to subscribe using the e-mail form at the bottom of the page so that you will be the first to get updates about Sparrow’s upcoming Mansion Murder Mystery!