Donald Trump lies dead in the Oval Office, no doubt the victim of poisoning. The only possible suspects are those who also happen to be closest to him–his own family!
Among her own works, Agatha Christie considered Crooked House (1949) one of her personal favorites, indicating in 1972 that she “found the study of a certain family interesting to explore.” The family depicted in her novel, the Leonides, is a product of post-Edwardian fashionable elitism, not an uncommon depiction in British literature of the era, wherein presumed privilege and courtly arrogance permeate the upper crust of society living.
70 years after its publication (and a hop across the pond) we find ourselves confronted with an altogether different family with eerily similar qualities to Christie’s characters, occupying an even more opulent and potentially just as ‘crooked’ house. Analogous to Trump’s admission of ‘gaming the system’ when it comes to everything from maneuvering through bankruptcies to pay-for-play politics, the Leonides’ fortune and status is also realized via crooked finagling. Perhaps it is a bit facetious to draw such parallels with the First Family, but considering its patriarch has bragged that he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody without losing any voters, a brief comparison to Agatha Christie’s first family of dysfunctional deplorables might be worth a passing glance. In both houses we witness the full effects of power, privilege, and corruption taken to extremes, as well as an array of personalities that fit Christie’s template of “unconscious egoists who can only see things in relation to how it affects them” (22).
“We’re not like other families where they all hate each other like poison. That must be pretty bad, but it’s almost worse to live all tangled up in conflicting affections … I think that’s what I meant when I said we all lived together in a little crooked house. I didn’t mean that it was crooked in a dishonest sense. I think what I meant was that we hadn’t been able to grow up independent, standing by ourselves, upright. We’re all a bit twisted and twining” (111).
This exercise in allegorically re-casting Agatha Christie’s text is not intended to suggest that the real Trump family would in any way commit an actual murder (despite boasting about such things), let alone kill one of their own! Rather, this is intended as a playful rendering of a reality that is truly stranger than fiction. Up next: Crooked Hillary’s House, anybody?
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Charles Hayward / Jared Kushner – Our narrator and familial ‘outsider’ desperately wants into the clan. Charles is the heir apparent son-in-law who gains access and power through no particular skill or experience, but rather through nepotism. Charles is terrified that his true love (Sophia) could be the killer, and is willing to forgo the truth in order to serve his own desires: “It was only as I drank my second cup of coffee that it occurred to me that Crooked House was having its effect on me also. I, too, wanted to find, not the true solution, but the solution that suited me best” (117).
Sophia Leonides / Ivanka Trump –The patriarch has chosen her to inherit the throne and all the responsibilities that go along with it. She is the favorite child, the glue that binds the family together. She is also a chameleon that plays all sides (wait, isn’t she a Democrat?), and seems far more aware than she is letting on, “… you did that beautifully, darling,” Sophia praises her mother after she has ‘lied’ to the police (41).
Brenda Leonides / Melania Trump – What could she possibly see in him? Her May-December marriage to the victim seems a clear motive for murder, but romance is a fickle beast, and it’s hard to follow your heart once family gets in the way. If Brenda isn’t careful, she could easily end up a convenient scapegoat should blood run thicker than the flow of cash.
Roger Leonides / Donald Trump Jr. – He’s the affable screw-up whose britches are a bit too big. Be it flushing the family fortune down the toilet, or nefariously meeting with Russians in Trump Tower, this guy can’t seem to do anything right. Did daddy bail him out one time too many, and if so, is that a motive for murder?
Phillip Leonides / Eric Trump – The much less vocal and far less interesting of the brothers, he serves no real purpose in his vocation or position in the family and simply expects to be included. Thus, jealousy and the presumption of privilege eat at his core. Phillip just about wishes he was the murderer, just so that someone would notice him.
Eustace Leonides / Barron Trump – Irreverent to the point of irrelevance.
Magda West / Kellyanne Conway – The family spin doctor, and quite literally a performer with a flair for the dramatic. All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely alternative facts.
Chief Inspector Taverner of Scotland Yard / Robert Mueller – “Nothing he did was ever illegal–but as soon as he’d got into it, you had to have a law about it, if you know what I mean” (13).
Edith de Haviland / White House Press Secretary (take your pick) – Willing to step up and take one for the team, she fully sacrifices her integrity (and life) in order to protect the family’s secrets. But would she go so far as commit murder? Her loyalty is tragically boundless.
Josephine Leonides / Tiffany Trump – It’s always the one you least expected! But I bet you figured that out by now, didn’t you? If only they had shipped her off to boarding school sooner.
Christie, Agatha. Crooked House. New York: Dodd Mead & Company, Book Club Ed., 1949.