French filmmaker Gilles Paquet-Brenner adapts the eponymous Agatha Christie novel for the screen in the 2017 movie ‘Crooked House,’ an enthralling mystery-suspense drama film fraught with lies, vanity, and betrayal. As private detective Charles Hayward takes up a damning case, the whodunit story plunges the audience into a bitter feud in an aristocratic family. Charles finds out that no one can be excluded from suspicion, but as it often happens in detective stories, the killer turns out to be someone nobody would suspect. If you seek to revisit the final moments of the gripping thriller, let us take you to the titular house. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Crooked House Plot Synopsis
Sophia de Haviland (Leonides) comes to meet her past fling and presently private investigator Charles Hayward. They haven’t spoken much after their supposed stint in Cairo, but now, her grandfather Aristide Leonides is dead. Sophia suspects foul play and thus pleads with Charles to take up the case. Considering their previous acquaintance, Charles reluctantly takes up the case. As he probes into the story, he knows that Greek-English oligarch Aristide had many enemies, and the most bitter of them were his nearest ones.
Aristide’s eldest son, Philip, is a historian, and his wife, Magda, an actress with little success. Philip and Magda have three children: Sophia is the eldest, Eustace, the communist, and Josephine, the youngest of them all, who has a penchant for detective stories. Aristide’s younger son, Roger, is the owner of a failing family business. Then there is Lady Edith, the unmarried sister of Aristide’s first wife, the matriarch of the house. Aristide’s second wife, Brenda, takes the fall for Aristide’s death due to her promiscuous nature. She is having an affair with Mr. Brown, the private tutor of the Leonides students. The story deepens with another casualty in the house.
Crooked House Ending: Who Killed Aristide Leonides?
Sophia finds Aristide dead in his bedroom. The doctors discover that he had a heart attack in his sleep. Sophia thinks that the insulin injection was laced with an agent called eserine, which was present in Aristide’s eye drops. As Charles’ rigorous interrogation of the Leonides family members helps him deduce, anyone can be the killer. All of them have good motives to kill the patriarch of the family since they seek to inherit some of the immense wealth of Aristide.
Philip and Magda have a grudge against Aristide since he did not fund Magda’s prospective production ‘Exposure.’ His other son, Roger, presumably needed his father’s money at regular intervals. Hiss wife, Clemency, despised Roger living under the umbrella of his father, and she may have killed Aristide. Moreover, she is an expert in toxicology and has the grey matter necessary to pull off the murder.
However, the other members of the family suspect Brenda of murdering her husband since she administered the insulin injection. Roger is especially eager to jump to the conclusion since he thinks Brenda to be a gold-digger. Usually, Aristide took the injection himself, but on the night of the murder, Brenda gave him the dose at his request. This revelation from Brenda makes the audience further suspect her. Aristide left his will unsigned before dying, making Brenda the great empire owner, which gives her ample reasons to murder him in cold blood.
Later still, Josephine divulges to Charles that Brenda is having a fling with the private tutor Mr. Brown. A casino dancer of humble background, her case certainly looks less and less compelling to Charles. She may have been disgusted by Aristide and his family’s aristocratic vanities and sought to usurp the wealth for herself. But as Eustace suggests, Brenda is far too meek to pull off such a trick. However, a second will is found, where Aristide has given everything to Sophia, with some allowance to his second wife. However, when Charles goes to the treehouse to hunt for Josephine’s diary, he looks through the spying glass to find Brenda dancing with Eustace.
For a moment, Charles also thinks that Sophia can be behind the murder. A mysterious woman in ties with the CIA, Sophia divulges less than she knows. For instance, she does not tell Charles about the second will even after being aware of it. Moreover, Aristide was funding anti-communist extremist organizations in Greece to wage a civil war in his home country. Quite possibly an international spy, Sophia may be forced to kill her grandfather under the direction of an external agent.
The mystery moves in all directions, from forward to backward and sideways. Chief Inspector Taverner from the Scotland Yard reaches the house to solve the case pronto, and taking the cue from Josephine, Charles takes the inspector to one of the rooftops of the mansion. From a box on the rooftop, they find mushy letter correspondences between Brenda and Mr. Brown, and with hard evidence, they are arrested.
The mystery, however, is yet to be solved. The mystery further deepens following the death of Nanny. Charles asks Josephine what she knows about the murder, but Lady Edith intervenes in the conversation. With the excuse of buying Josephine ice cream, Edith drives her out of the barricade. Charles comes around to find Josephine’s diary drowned in limestone in the attic storage of Edith. Charles also detects cyanide in the same room, the agent that killed the nanny.
With the fear that Lady Edith may do something to Josephine, Charles and Sophia hunt them down. However, the actual truth is discovered when Sophia begins to read the diary. In her diary, Josephine confesses to killing her grandfather out of sheer boredom. The whodunit mystery is put to rest with the revelation, but Charles and Sophia are in for another surprise.
Are Lady Edith and Josephine Dead or Alive?
Charles and Sophia drive some more to find Lady Edith’s car. Lady Edith also sees them coming after her and moves the car’s direction towards the quarry. Charles and Sophia fear something dreadful to happen and rush to stop them. However, they helplessly see as Lady Edith drives the car off the cliff into the quarry. There is an explosion shortly after, which makes their death the only possibility. Presumably, Lady Edith always knew that something is wrong. The nanny probably took the diary from Josephine and gave it to Edith.
After reading it, she got to know about Josephine being the killer. Endowed with the knowledge, she did not want it to be a public matter since it would harm the image of the family. She was torn between letting the police arrest Brenda and Mr. Brown and divulging the truth. But considering the impact the allegation would have on her beloved granddaughter, Lady Edith chose to conceal the fact. However, when the nanny was killed, and lady Edith found Josephine to be framing her, she had no other choice barring accepting her tragic fate. She takes Josephine along with her to provide some poetic justice to the story.
Who Gets the Estate?
With the final revelation, it becomes clear that immense estate or wealth was not the reason for Aristide’s death. It was instead the whims of a neglected child. After the exposition, it can be presumed that Brenda would be shortly released from custody, and so will her lover, Mr. Brown. However, with the discovery of the second will, it becomes clear that Brenda would not inherit the empire of her late husband.
On the contrary, most of the estate and the business will now belong to Sophia, as stated in the second signed version of Aristide’s will. A generous allowance would be allocated for Brenda, while the other family members would not get a penny. With the saddening conjecture, Roger and Clemency leave for Barbados for good, while Philip and Magda presumably get the money needed for their project, ‘Exposure,’ from their daughter.
Read More: Is Crooked House Based on a True Story?