Like all Agatha Christie’s novels, Crooked House is about finding murder under a particular roof. This time, a private investigator, Charles Hayward, investigates a hothouse inhabited with people of suppressed passions. They all have the motive to murder their multi-millionaire relative, Aristide Leonides. And it’s Charles’ conflict to find the real culprit to prove his worth to Scotland Yard.
Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, Crooked House is a murder mystery drama set in the late 1950s. The thrilling narrative keeps you on edge throughout and gives you a satisfactory end to the tale. Without further ado, let’s solve the mystery of the mysterious murder of Aristide Leonides.
‘Crooked House’ Plot Summary
A Greek-born British business tycoon, Aristide Leonides, the colossus of his time, dies of a sudden heart attack. Soon after his death, his granddaughter, Sophia, visits her past lover, Charles Hayward, who now works as a private investigator. Charles first met Sophia in Cairo, where the romance blossomed until suddenly Sophia disappeared without a proper goodbye. In present times, she wants Charles to investigate the death of her grandpapa, Aristide Leonides, as she suspects foul play. Sophia believes that someone murdered Aristide and wants Charles to investigate further.
Charles meets the investigating officer, Taverner, of Scotland Yard, and learns that someone injected eserine into Aristide’s bloodstream. According to Taverner, the mentioned chemical is physostigmine, which is used in eye drops to treat glaucoma. An initial theory establishes that either someone switched Aristide’s insulin with eserine intentionally or accidentally. Charles gives Charles two days to investigate Leonides’ mansion before Scotland Yard can officially plunge in.
Charles arrives at the Leonides’ mansion to interrogate the family members. To his horror, all the family members hate Aristide and have the motive to kill him. Will Charles be able to find the real murderer?
Who killed Aristide Leonides?
Aristide was a control freak who played with people’s lives. Everyone in the family hated Aristide for his arrogant behavior, rude comments, and treating the family members like slaves. But no one revolted. They couldn’t because Aristide provided them with an affluent lifestyle that they couldn’t have been able to afford even in a million lifetimes.
Aunt Edith (Edith de Haviland), sister of Aristide’s first wife, Lady Marica, saved the kids from Aristide’s lousy temper and influence. Aristide and Edith used to fight like cats and dogs, and Sophia suspected Edith secretly adored him. Charles thought that maybe, after his marriage to young Brenda, Edith got jealous and killed Aristide.
Aristide’s elder son, Philip, hated his father because he cunningly confined him to the mansion. Ten years ago, Philip lost all his wealth in a poker game, and Aristide saved his soul. But as a part of the deal, Aristide put a leash on him and his actress wife, Magda. Philip also despised his father for giving away his flagship company, Associated Catering, to Roger’s youngest son.
When Aristide brought Brenda to the house, Roger became infatuated with her beauty. However, he didn’t dare to make a move, and Brenda stayed out of bounds. Charles thought Roger’s love had turned into hatred, and so he tried to frame Brenda for Aristide’s murder. On the other hand, Roger’s wife, Clemency, wanted to escape the shadows of the tyrannical tycoon, and she couldn’t leave the mansion until Aristide was dead.
Aristide died intestate. Without a will, the primary beneficiary, i.e., his second wife, Brenda, would inherit all the wealth after Aristide’s death. On the day of his murder, Brenda gave the insulin injection to Aristide and poisoned him with eserine. Charles surmised that maybe Brenda knew about the will and thus poisoned Aristide to get the property. Additionally, Brenda was having an affair with Aristide’s biographer, Laurence Brown. She couldn’t have initiated her relationship with Brown until and unless Aristide was alive.
After Aristide’s death was made public, one of his friends brought a second will to his lawyer, Gaitskill. In this will, Aristide settled a small sum with the widow and left the rest of the estate to his granddaughter, Sophia. For a moment, Charles believed that Sophia brought him in to investigate the case to prove her innocence while, in the meantime, she could enjoy the richness left by her grandfather.
Though everyone had their own motives for killing Aristide, he was actually killed by someone seeking a bit of amusement. Aristide’s granddaughter, Josephine, Sophie’s younger sister, and Philip’s daughter, killed Aristide.
Why did Josephine Kill Aristide Leonides?
Josephine showed signs of psychopathy. She was addicted to murder mysteries and considered herself Sherlock Holmes. She once told Charles that one ends the investigation by spotting the murderer because he or she is practically the only person left. Maybe she intended to kill everyone in the house because she hated stupid people and perceived her family as a brunch of stupid people. She did poison her nanny, who used to drink her chocolate milk. She even lacked empathy and was a compulsive liar. Josephine lied about Brenda and Brown sharing love letters to deceive Charles.
Charles struggled to find these letters, which were in reality forged by Josephine to frame Brenda and Brown for Aristide’s murder. She intentionally lured Charles into her rabbit hole, where Taverner found these letters and closed the case. However, it would have been no fun for Josephine if the case had been closed. Hence, she targeted her nanny, who suspected Josephine of having some illicit affairs.
In her diary, Josephine wrote that she hated her grandfather because he stopped her from being a ballet dancer. She considered him a hypocrite. Aristide enjoyed Brenda’s dance. He even cherished Sophia’s passion for becoming a ballerina, before she hurt her knee and gave up on the dream. Yet, he stopped Josephine from taking ballet lessons because he believed that she would never be as good as Sophia or Brenda. After falsely framing Brenda, Josephine would probably have killed Sophia. However, before she could tell anyone else, Charles finally caught her.
‘Crooked House’ Ending Explained
Josephine poisoned her nanny with cyanide. Charles guessed that, other than killing people, cyanide is used to kill moles. Edith had been busy shooting moles throughout the films, so Charles decided to search her shed. He found a bottle of cyanide that Josephine probably stole. Charles also found Josephine’s diary buried in quicklime and suspected that Edith killed Aristide and the nanny.
Edith left a confession note for Charles to save Josphine. She didn’t want the little kid to face the tortures of a mental institution and public humiliation. Hence, Edith decided to commit suicide with Josphine to bury her dark secret with their deaths. Charles and Sophia tried to save Edith and Josphine, but it was too late. When they reached the quarry, Edith and Josphine drove off the cliff, and their car exploded, leading to their tragic death.
After the accident, Charles and Sophia probably hid Josephine’s secret and would have blamed Edith for the murder to save Brenda and Brown. An old lady, who already had a few months to live, sacrificed herself to save a crooked house.
Crooked House is a 2017 Mystery Crime Thriller film directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner. The screenplay is based on Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name.