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Dissecting Christie Part 6

This week, we complete the analysis of Agatha Christie's The Crooked House.

Chapter 14:  Sleuth interviews Nannie, Suspect 6, and Suspect 10. Critical piece of evidence is introduced but overlooked. Suspects 1, 4, and 5 are dismissed. Finger points to Suspects 1 and 7. 

Sleuth meets Nannie who hints that Josephine is always listening at doors and writing in a book – another hint that there is a diary to be found. No one  thinks to look at it. But it is the damning piece of evidence at the end.

The Sleuth asks Suspect 6 Sophia who knew about the drops. The Victim told everyone assembled that if his wife mistook his eyedrops for his insulin he’d die. He provided the method. The Sleuth deducts that this actually dismisses Suspect 1 Brenda, because she would have been clever enough to destroy the vial with eserine in it. The police tested the vial because they thought he might have been dispensed the wrong drug or wrong dosage. If she had replaced the vial with a normal vial of insulin, she would have gotten away with it. The poison left no signs.

The family meets to discuss the business problem. They resolve to wait until the will is found.

Sleuth interviews Suspect 5 Clemency. She is relieved the victim is dead because they are finally free of the family home and the business. Dismisses Suspect 4 Roger. He worshiped the victim and he was actually relieved the business failed. Dismisses herself: She would never have killed anyone for money because she doesn’t care about money. She points the finger back to Suspects 1 and 7 Brenda and Laurence as the main suspects.

Sleuth interviews Suspect 10 Edith. She states she loves them all dearly, hinting as to why she withholds the critical evidence at the end and her reason for the final tragic act.

Chapter 15: Sleuth interviews Suspects 3 and 6. Hints at motive for Suspects 8 and 10.

Sophia states she thinks Suspect 8 Eustace hates them all. She also states that her mother Suspect 3 Magda loves drama and gets bored and likes to stir things up.

Suspect 3 Magda joins them and repeats Suspect 10 Edith would do anything for the family and that she had been in love with the victim before he married her sister. She disapproved and was jealous of Suspect 1 Brenda. Also repeats that Suspect 9 Josephine must go away to school. Sleuth incorrectly deducts that she is worried for Josephine’s safety.

Chapter 16: Sleuth recaps what he has learned. Finger points to Suspect 2. False attempt on Suspect 9's life is set up. Critical piece of evidence is planted and misunderstood.

Sleuth considers Suspect 2 Philip, his fiancee’s father is the only one who has avoided him. Considers his motive: he was cold, reserved, a jealous second son. Could he have wanted his brother to fail enough to kill their father to incriminate the brother? The whole family wanted it to be Suspects 1 and 7, Brenda and Laurence, but no one seemed to really believe it. He investigates the bathroom where the insulin was kept. Anyone could have had easy access to it.

Interviews Suspect 8 Eustace. Eustace thought it was well past time for the Victim to go.

Interviews Suspect 7 Laurence. He believes he is being set up. Denies Suspect 1 Brenda had a motive.

Runs into Suspect 9 Josephine who was in the Cistern room and is covered in cobwebs. Says it is about time for the next murder. She is setting up the false attempt on her life. This is important because the sleuth deducts erroneously that Josephine hid the letters later found in the Cistern room, when in fact she followed Suspect 7 Laurence there and read the letters and left them there.

Chapter 17: Sleuth reports to the police. Red herring is extended and provides a motive for Suspect 6.

An outsider was given a sealed envelope from the Victim which he was to forward to the attorney upon the Victim’s death. It is a will written by hand. The will leaves a bequest to Suspect 1 and the rest to Suspect 6 Sophia, presenting his fiancĂ©e with a motive if she had known about it. Victim did not consider his sons fit to take his place.

Chapter 18: False attempt on Suspect 9. Find critical piece of evidence. Finger points to Suspects 1 and 7. Important clue is planted.

Suspect 9 is nearly killed by her own device. Sleuth feels guilty for not protecting her. Everyone knew she played there. Important clue: someone stood on a broken chair with muddy feet and Josephine was the only one short enough to need the chair to plant the object that nearly falls on her head. But this is not considered by the sleuth until the end.

She was always snooping and writing things in a little black book. They decide to look for it. They search her room. It was in disarray as if someone had searched it. Anyone could have done it. Sleuth remembers she was in the cistern room. He goes there and finds a packet of letters from Suspect 1 Brenda to Laurence. Evidence convicts Suspects 1 and 7.

Chapter 19: Suspect 1 is dismissed. Finger lands on Suspect 7.

The attempt on Suspect 9 Josephine suggests the murderer does not like direct violence which is why he or she used poison and a booby trap. They dismiss Suspect 1 Brenda based on the assumption that she could not have rigged the booby trap. It must have been Suspect 7 Laurence.

Chapter 20: Suspect 6's possible motive is revealed.

The inquest is held, the contents of the will are revealed. It divides the family. Josephine was in the hospital, so she missed the drama.

Chapter 21:  Suspects 1 and 7 are arrested. Suspect 6 is called into question.

Suspect 6 Sophia is sending Eustace and Josephine off to school. She is letting Laurence go. Suspects 1 and 7 Brenda and Laurence are arrested. Sophie reveals that she had known about the will.

Chapter 22: Suspect 9 falsely accuses Suspect 7 for the attempt on her life.

Josephine returns. She points the finger at Laurence for the attempt on her life. Said she saw him coming out of the cistern room one day and found the letters he hid in there.

Chapter 23: Recaps the arrest with the police. Victim 2 is murdered.

Letters were damning but the defense will twist it to say they were talking about being together after the Victim died of natural causes. Their instincts still place doubt on their guilt. They review the motives. Sleuth realizes that he thought the child’s room was searched for the letters, but she didn’t have or hide the letters. So someone must have been looking for her little black book. Receives the news that the Nannie has been killed.

Chapter 24: Suspect 9 states her motive but it is disregarded. Suspect 9 is taken away by Suspect 10.

Roger and Clemency are on their way out. They deny that they had motive to kill Josephine or Nannie. Josephine states that she never liked Nannie. Josephine tells the Sleuth that she knows who poisoned her grandfather, set up the booby trap, and put poison in her cocoa.  She refuses to tell. Nannie was killed with the digitalin that Edith takes. Edith takes Josephine to London.

Chapter 25:  Suspects 9 and 10 are killed in a car accident. The truth is revealed.

They get the news that Suspects 10 and 9 Edith and Josephine were found dead in the car that had gone off the road into a quarry. The sleuth remembered that he had seen Edith write letters and left them in the hall. He retrieves them.They realize Edith was protecting Josephine. Her little black book is in the second envelope.

Chapter 26: Crime recapped. Important clues recognized. World returns to new normal.

They read the little black book and recognize the signs they missed. The sleuth and Sophia decide to marry despite the madness of her sister.


When I first imagined writing a mystery, the scope of it felt overwhelming. Not only would I have to come up with multiple suspects, I would have to come up with multiple motives. Dissecting Christie's work has given me a better handle on how to plant and payoff evidence and motives. I hope it helps you too.

Dame Agatha is one of the longest lasting, highest selling mystery writers of all time. It's always a good idea to learn from the best.

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