I'm not quite sure what to make of Crooked House, Channel 5's brand new version of Agatha Christie's 1949 stand-alone novel, the credits of which rolled a few minutes ago. But then, my feelings about the book, which I read as a teenager, are also equivocal. I'll always be a Christie fan, and the Queen of Crime herself made clear that this was a favourite among her novels. And yet...
All those years ago, I felt there were two problems with the book. First, there are just too many possible suspects in the death of Aristide Leonides, one of those nasty, rich old men who were constantly bumped off in Golden Age detective novels. Second, the detective, Charles Hayward, is insufficiently memorable. No wonder, I've always thought, that Christie never wrote another novel about him. On the other hand, the solution to the puzzle is an exceptionally daring example of Christie's commitment to the concept of the "least likely person" as culprit.
The same pros and cons apply to the TV film. The cast is stellar, almost inevitably: Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson, Terence Stamp (improbably playing a Scotland Yard detective), Amanda Abbington, et al. Julian Fellowes, no less, had a hand in the script (I'd like to think he wasn't responsible for the anachronisms in some pieces of dialogue). But we had so little time to appreciate all the cameos. And Max Irons, son of Jeremy, was competent but not charismatic as Charles Hayward, now reinvented as a down-on-his-luck private eye. I found the background music weirdly intrusive at times, and I was confused about when the story was meant to be set. The references to Ruth Ellis and some other oddments suggest that it had been moved to the second half of the Fifties. But if that was so, I've no idea why it was done.
Nevertheless, there were aspects that I enjoyed. This version brought out the darker aspects of Christie's worldview, and even if this was done simply because darkness is fashionable, I felt it was the right direction to take this particular story, which is grim rather than jolly. And the finale, much changed from the book's, struck me as very effective, given that the shock twist is rather hard to take. I'd be interested to hear what other viewers made of it all. .