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Presentation on Chapters III-IV of Crooked House
In chapters III-IV of Crooked House by Agatha Christie, the reader joins Charles as he
begins to discover more about the death of Aristide Leonides. His father, with whom he is very
close – evidenced by Charles’ often-used endearment, “Old Man” – is investigating the case.
Despite that he is not the primary source of information in this chapter, he makes a statement
that seems to be recurring. “It may be all right, if…if the right person did it” (Christie 15). Sophia,
Aristide’s granddaughter, makes this same statement in chapter II, though Christie leaves the
reader in suspense about who the “right” person may be.
Much of the information comes from Chief-Inspector Taverner, who provides context
about the Leonides’ family structure. The reader, through the lens of Charles, finds out Aristide
Leonides conducted shady business throughout his life. Taverner describes his business
ventures as “Never anything outside the law. But he was the sort of chap that thought up all the
ways you can get round the law” (Christie 17). Although he had a happy marriage with the first
Mrs. Leonides, she died in 1905, and so did five of his eight children. Considering these
constant tragedies, the reader must wonder what kind of effect they had on family relationships,
and whether they contributed to Aristride’s later murder. While his sister-in-law always hated
him, she began living with the family after Mrs. Leonides’ death to help with the children.
Though her hatred seems ample motivation for murder, she is not discussed as a possible
suspect. Instead, the main suspect is Brenda, a twenty-four-year-old woman whom Aristide
married at the age of seventy-seven. Although described as “…perfectly respectable…”
(Christie 19), her suspicious relationship with the grandchildren’s’ tutor, as well as her previous
duty in administering Aristride’s insulin dosages, has caused authorities to give her a second
look. Despite this being the police’s best guess, with the little evidence available, chapter IV
reveals Sophia does not believe Brenda to be the killer. It also seems unlikely for Christie to
have revealed so much of the true killer this soon in the text.
Another glimpse into the Leonides’ complicated family dynamic comes when Charles
asks Sophia who she believes committed the murder. “…we’re a very queer family…There’s a
lot of ruthlessness in us…” (Christie 29). She describes three different types of ruthlessness in
her family: the physical kind, the one that comes from having “no imagination whatsoever”
(Christie 30), and the coldblooded ruthlessness she sees in her Aunt Clemency. Though these
descriptions should cast doubt on a few specific family members, such as Sophia’s father or
Uncle Roger, Sophia’s only conclusion is that anyone could have done it. However, there is a
moment in which the suspicion subtly shifts to her. She states, “Oh yes, Charles, you can’t
make me an exception. I suppose I could murder someone…” (Christie 31). While she later
jokes about the statement, Christie seems to have intended to cast doubt on her innocence as
Question: Given the information we know about the Leonides family, who do you think may
have committed the murder? What evidence do you have to support your answer? Do you think
Sophia should be a suspect?
“The 50 Best Movies of the 1940s.” Paste Magazine, 4 Mar. 2017,
Sample biography, by one of our own!
Biography of James Montague Rhodes
James Montague Rhodes was born on August 1, 1862, and died on June 12, 1936.
He is best known as the father of antiquarian ghost stories, a prominent figure in the
prime of English ghost stories, and a central figure in the realm of biblical Apocrypha and
medieval manuscripts. James Montague Rhodes’s ghost stories have never faltered in
relevance and even surpassed his lifespan through new prints circulated within the
present. As a child, James began his educational career at the Temple Grove School.
Through his academic success, James was awarded a scholarship to attend Eton
College. It was here that he began to be intrigued with antiquarian novels and
manuscripts. These items would later become the foundation of many of his ghost
stories as a supernatural vessel. Yet, the general theme of supernatural beings within
antiquated things didn’t come into fruition until his time at Kings College at Cambridge
University. He wrote a dissertation on the apocryphal Apocalypse of Saint Peter to
uncover a “hidden away” portion of the Bible. These religious undertones would find their
way into his literary pursuits by generating a standard formula for his ghost stories.
Instead of a hidden part of the Bible, James replaces it with a sinister demon lurking
within antiquated texts found by the protagonist and eventually cast out by destroying
the item or unveiling the tortured soul’s past. Not only are these ghost stories surrounded
unmasking a demon, but it resembles Arthur Conans style of writing within his Sherlock
Holmes series. This series of puzzles are given in small pieces and can successfully
show readers an extensive world built within the text.
Between 1886 and 1894, James had become an assistant director to the
Fitzwilliam Museum, junior dean of Kings College, director of Fitzwilliam Museum, and
had written his first ghost story. It was initially titled “A Curious Book”; however, the
magazine (National Review) decided to alter the title to “The Scrap-book of Canon
Alberic.” Within his lifetime, James has released four collections of stories titled Ghost
Stories of an Antiquary, More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (which included “The
Tractate Middoth”), A Thin Ghost, and Others, and A Warning to the Curious and Other
Ghost Stories. The years they were published were 1904, 1911, 1919, and 1925,
respectively. Before his death, James was given an honorary doctorate from rival
colleges Oxford and Cambridge and given the Order of Merit. James Montague Rhodes
had created 34 antiquarian ghost stories with such tact and cohesiveness that it is still
wildly celebrated and revered due to his mastery of this genre. He has set the stage for
what a ghost story should be. All of this success was simply stemming from his
childhood fascination with Evangelicalism and antiquated novels.
Would stories such as Tractate Middoth lose its impact upon readers if James Montague
Rhodes did not follow his formula of a protagonist uncovering spirits within antiquated
texts? But instead, only utilized an untethered spirit?
Atkinson, William. “Montague (Rhodes) James.” British Short-Fiction Writers, 18801914: The Romantic Tradition, edited by William F. Naufftus, Gale, 1995. Dictionary of
Literary Biography Vol. 156. Gale Literature Resource Center,
Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.
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Transatlantic Slave Trade
ancestors of Christian Europeans
Native African values of
religious believes and clothing
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