Crooked House

Despite endless denials, people love a good murder. This is especially true with a plethora of murder mystery books and films to delight our apparent blood-thirstiness. One of the Queens of crime is Agatha Christie, whose novels are continually adapted decades after their publication. There’s something about the quaint genteel Englishness of her work that appeals. With a cup of tea and scone readily replaced by a dagger or gun, death is never far as ‘Crooked House’ proves.

Private detective Charles Hayward (Max Irons) has his work cut out. Returning from Cairo to London to set up business, his current assignment finds him investigating a murder. When a wealthy and ruthless tycoon is found poisoned, Charles is tasked by the family to solve the crime. Among the suspects are Lady Edith (Glenn Close), Madga (Gillian Anderson) and Sophia (Stefanie Martini). Attempting to put together the scattered clues, Charles’ life swiftly becomes perilous as the killer lurks in the shadows.

Despite being released into cinemas, ‘Crooked House’ has a ‘small-screen’ feel. Unlike the recent adaptation of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, ‘Crooked House’ doesn’t broaden the canvas beyond that of a TV production. Maybe that’s due to lack-lustre direction or an overly long script, but ‘Crooked House’ doesn’t capture attention as it should. Padding is evident throughout even if the excellent cast give it their all.

One of the ‘delights’ of Christie’s mysteries is seeing how her wealthy characters are miserable. In spite of their money, their chaos rather than joy is effectively conveyed by ‘Crooked House’. Due to fine performances, the characters are as interesting and complex as needed with the killer’s reveal a genuine surprise. The scenery also can’t be faulted with the English countryside lovingly rendered by fine cinematography.

‘Crooked House’ is a reasonable Christie adaptation without being dazzling. The low-key story seems suited to the small-screen than its bigger counterpart. It’s pleasing that more faithful adaptations of Christie’s works are being made with her murderous imagination keeping viewers guessing until the end.

Rating out of 10: 6