Crooked House / Скрюченный домишко. Книга для чтения на английском языке

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Crooked House / Скрюченный домишко. Книга для чтения на английском языке
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Crooked House © 1949

Agatha Christie Limited.

All rights reserved.

AGATHA CHRISTIE© and the Agatha Christie Signature are registered trade marks of Agatha Christie Limited in the UK and elsewhere.

© КАРО, 2019

Author’s Foreword

This book is one of my own special favourites. I saved it up for years, thinking about it, working it out, saying to myself: ‘One day, when I’ve plenty of time, and want to really enjoy myself—I’ll begin it!’ I should say that of one’s output, five books are work to one that is real pleasure. was pure pleasure. I often wonder whether people who read a book can know if it has been hard work or a pleasure to write? Again and again someone says to me: ‘How you must have enjoyed writing so and so!’ This about a book that obstinately refused to come out the way you wished, whose characters are sticky, the plot needlessly involved, and the dialogue stilted—or so you think yourself. But perhaps the author isn’t the best judge of his or her own work. However, practically everybody has liked so I am justified in my own belief that it is one of my best.

I don’t know what put the Leonides family into my head—they just came. Then, like Topsy ‘they growed’.

I feel that I myself was only their scribe.

Chapter 1

I first came to know Sophia Leonides in Egypt towards the end of the war. She held a fairly high administrative post in one of the Foreign Office departments out there. I knew her first in an official capacity[1], and I soon appreciated the efficiency that had brought her to the position she held, in spite of her youth (she was at that time just twenty-two).

Besides being extremely easy to look at, she had a clear mind and a dry sense of humour[2] that I found very delightful. We became friends. She was a person whom it was extraordinarily easy to talk to and we enjoyed our dinners and oc casional dances very much.

All this I knew; it was not until I was ordered East at the close of the European war that I knew something else—that I loved Sophia and that I wanted to marry her.

We were dining at Shepheard’s when I made this discovery. It did not come to me with any shock of surprise, but more as the recognition of a fact with which I had been long familiar. I looked at her with new eyes—but I saw what I had already known for a long time. I liked everything I saw. The dark crisp hair that sprang up proudly from her forehead, the vivid blue eyes, the small square fighting chin, and the straight nose. I liked the well-cut light-grey tailor-made, and the crisp white shirt. She looked refreshingly English and that appealed to me strongly after three years without seeing my native land. Nobody, I thought, could be more English—and even as I was thinking exactly that, I suddenly wondered if, in fact, she was, or indeed could be, as English as she looked. Does the real thing ever have the perfection of a stage performance?

I realized that much and freely as we had talked together, discussing ideas, our likes and dislikes, the future, our immediate friends and acquaintances—Sophia had never mentioned her home or her family. She knew all about me (she was, as I have indicated, a good listener) but about her I knew nothing. She had, I supposed, the usual background, but she had never talked about it. And until this moment I had never realized the fact.

Sophia asked me what I was thinking about.

I replied truthfully: ‘You.’

‘I see,’ she said. And she sounded as though she did see.

‘We may not meet again for a couple of years,’ I said. ‘I don’t know when I shall get back to England. But as soon as I do get back, the first thing I shall do will be to come and see you and ask you to marry me.’

She took it without batting an eyelash[3]. She sat there, smoking, not looking at me.

For a moment or two I was nervous that she might not understand.

‘Listen,’ I said. ‘The one thing I’m determined not to do, is to ask you to marry me now. That wouldn’t work out anyway. First you might turn me down, and then I’d go off miserable and probably tie up with some ghastly woman just to restore my vanity. And if you didn’t turn me down what could we do about it? Get married and part at once? Get engaged and settle down to a long waiting period? I couldn’t stand your doing that. You might meet someone else and feel bound to be “loyal” to me. We’ve been living in a queer hectic get-on-with-it-quickly atmosphere. Marriages and love affairs making and breaking all round us. I’d like to feel you’d gone home, free and independent, to look round you and size up[4] the new post-war world and decide what you want out of it. What is between you and me, Sophia, has got to be permanent. I’ve no use for any other kind of marriage.’

‘No more have I,’ said Sophia.

‘On the other hand,’ I said, ‘I think I’m entitled to let you know how I—well—how I feel.’

‘But without undue lyrical expression?’ murmured Sophia.

‘Darling—don’t you understand? I’ve tried not to say I love you—’

She stopped me.

‘I do understand, Charles. And I like your funny way of doing things. And you may come and see me when you come back—if you still want to—’

It was my turn to interrupt.

‘There’s no doubt about that.’

‘There’s always a doubt about everything, Charles. There may always be some incalculable factor that upsets the apple-cart. For one thing, you don’t know much about me, do you?’

I don’t even know where you live in England.’

‘I live at Swinly Dean.’

I nodded at the mention of the well-known outer suburb of London which boasts three excellent golf courses for the city financier.

She added softly in a musing voice: In a little crooked house…’

I must have looked slightly startled, for she seemed amused, and explained by elaborating the quotation. ‘“And they all lived together in a little crooked house.” That’s us. Not really such a little house either. But definitely crooked—running to gables and half-timbering!’

‘Are you one of a large family? Brothers and sisters?’

One brother, one sister, a mother, a father, an uncle, an aunt by marriage, a grandfather, a great-aunt, and a step-grandmother.’

Good gracious!’ I exclaimed, slightly overwhelmed.

She laughed.

Of course we don’t normally all live together. The war and blitzes have brought that about—but I don’t know’– she frowned reflectively—‘perhaps spiritually the family has always lived together—under my grandfather’s eye and protection. He’s rather a Person, my grandfather. He’s over eighty, about four-foot ten, and everybody else looks rather dim beside him.’

He sounds interesting,’ I said.

He is interesting. He’s a Greek from Smyrna. Aristide Leonides.’ She added, with a twinkle, He’s extremely rich.’

‘Will anybody be rich after this is over?’

‘My grandfather will,’ said Sophia with assurance. ‘No soak-the-rich[5] tactics would have any effect on him. He’d just soak the soakers.’

‘I wonder,’ she added, ‘if you’ll like him?’

‘Do you?’ I asked.

‘Better than anyone in the world,’ said Sophia.

Chapter 2

It was over two years before I returned to England. They were not easy years. I wrote to Sophia and heard from her fairly frequently. Her letters, like mine, were not love letters. They were letters written to each other by close friends—they dealt with[6] ideas and thoughts and with comments on the daily trend of life. Yet I know that as far as I was concerned[7], and I believed as far as Sophia was concerned too, our feelings for each other grew and strengthened.

 

I returned to England on a soft grey day in September. The leaves on the trees were golden in the evening light. There were playful gusts of wind. From the airfield I sent a telegram to Sophia.

‘Just arrived back. Will you dine this evening Mario’s nine o’clock Charles.’

A couple of hours later I was sitting reading the Times[8]; and scanning the Births, Marriages and Deaths column my eye was caught by the name Leonides:

On Sept. 19th, at Three Gables, Swinly Dean, Aristide Leonides, beloved husband of Brenda Leonides, in his eighty-eighth year. Deeply regretted.

There was another announcement immediately below:

LEONIDES—Suddenly, at his residence, Three Gables, Swinly Dean, Aristide Leonides. Deeply mourned by his loving children and grandchildren. Flowers to St Eldred’s

Church, Swinly Dean.

I found the two announcements rather curious. There seemed to have been some faulty staff work resulting in overlapping. But my main preoccupation was Sophia. I hastily sent her a second telegram:

‘Just seen news of your grandfather’s death. Very sorry. Let me know when I can see you. Charles.’

A telegram from Sophia reached me at six o’clock at my father’s house. It said:

‘Will be at Mario’s nine o’clock. Sophia.’

The thought of meeting Sophia again made me both nervous and excited. The time crept by with maddening slowness. I was at Mario’s waiting twenty minutes too early. Sophia herself was only five minutes late.

It is always a shock to meet again someone whom you have not seen for a long time but who has been very much present in your mind during that period. When at last Sophia came through the swing doors[9] our meeting seemed completely unreal. She was wearing black, and that, in some curious way, startled me! Most other women were wearing black, but I got it into my head that it was definitely mourning—and it surprised me that Sophia should be the kind of person who did wear black—even for a near relative.

We had cocktails—then went and found our table. We talked rather fast and feverishly—asking after old friends of the Cairo days. It was artificial conversation, but it tided us over[10] the first awkwardness. I expressed commiseration for her grandfather’s death and Sophia said quietly that it had been Very sudden’. Then we started off again reminiscing. I began to feel, uneasily, that something was the matter—something, I mean, other than the first natural awkwardness of meeting again. There was something wrong, definitely wrong, with Sophia herself. Was she, perhaps, going to tell me that she had found some other man whom she cared for more than she did for me? That her feeling for me had been ‘all a mistake’?

Somehow I didn’t think it was that—I didn’t know what it was. Meanwhile we continued our artificial talk.

Then, quite suddenly, as the waiter placed coffee on the table and retired bowing, everything swung into focus[11]. Here were Sophia and I sitting together as so often before at a small table in a restaurant. The years of our separation might never have been.

‘Sophia’ I said.

And immediately she said, ‘Charles!’

I drew a deep breath[12] of relief.

‘Thank goodness that’s over,’ I said. ‘What’s been the matter with us?’

‘Probably my fault. I was stupid.’

‘But it’s all right now?’

‘Yes, it’s all right now.’

We smiled at each other.

‘Darling!’ I said. And then: ‘How soon will you marry me?’

Her smile died. The something, whatever it was, was back.

‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘I’m not sure, Charles, that I can ever marry you.’

‘But, Sophia! Why not? Is it because you feel I’m a stranger? Do you want time to get used to me again? Is there someone else? No—’ I broke off. ‘I’m a fool. It’s none of those things.’

‘No, it isn’t.’ She shook her head. I waited. She said in a low voice:

‘It’s my grandfather’s death.’

‘Your grandfather’s death? But why? What earthly difference can that make? You don’t mean—surely you can’t imagine—is it money? Hasn’t he left any? But surely, dearest—’

‘It isn’t money.’ She gave a fleeting smile. I think you’d be quite willing[13] to “take me in my shift[14]”, as the old saying goes. And grandfather never lost any money in his life.’

‘Then what is it?’

‘It’s just his death—you see, I think, Charles, that he didn’t just—die. I think he may have been—killed…’

I stared at her.

‘But—what a fantastic idea. What made you think of it?’

‘I didn’t think of it. The doctor was queer to begin with. He wouldn’t sign a certificate. They’re going to have a post-mortem[15]. It’s quite clear that they suspect something is wrong.’

I didn’t dispute that with her. Sophia had plenty of brains; any conclusions she had drawn could be relied upon.

Instead I said earnestly:

‘Their suspicions may be quite unjustified. But putting that aside, supposing that they are justified, how does that affect you and me?’

‘It might under certain circumstances. You’re in the Diplomatic Service. They’re rather particular about wives. No—please don’t say all the things that you’re bursting to say. You’re bound to say them—and I believe you really think them—and theoretically I quite agree with them. But I’m proud—I’m devilishly proud. I want our marriage to be a good thing for everyone—I don’t want to represent one-half of a sacrifice for love! And, as I say, it may be all right…’

‘You mean the doctor—may have made a mistake?’

‘Even if he hasn’t made a mistake, it won’t matter—so long as the right person killed him.’

‘What do you mean, Sophia?’

‘It was a beastly thing to say. But, after all, one might as well be honest.’

She forestalled my next words.

‘No, Charles, I’m not going to say any more. I’ve probably said too much already. But I was determined to come and meet you tonight—to see you myself and make you understand. We can’t settle anything until this is cleared up.’

‘At least tell me about it.’

She shook her head.

‘I don’t want to.’

‘But—Sophia—’

‘No, Charles. I don’t want you to see us from my angle. I want you to see us unbiased from the outside point of view.’

‘And how am I to do that?’

She looked at me, a queer light in her brilliant blue eyes.

‘You’ll get that from your father,’ she said.

I had told Sophia in Cairo that my father was Assistant Commissioner[16] of Scotland Yard. He still held that office. At her words, I felt a cold weight settling down on me.

‘It’s as bad as that, then?’

‘I think so. Do you see a man sitting at a table by the door all alone—rather a nice-looking stolid ex-Army type?’

‘Yes.’

‘He was on Swinly Dean platform this evening when I got into the train.’

‘You mean he’s followed you here?’

‘Yes. I think we’re all—how does one put it[17]?—under observation. They more or less hinted that we’d all better not leave the house. But I was determined to see you.’ Her small square chin shot out pugnaciously. ‘I got out of the bathroom window and shinned down the water-pipe.’ ‘Darling!’

‘But the police are very efficient. And of course there was the telegram I sent you. Well—never mind—we’re here—together… But from now on, we’ve both got to play a lone hand[18].’

She paused and then added:

‘Unfortunately—there’s no doubt—about our loving each other.’

‘No doubt at all,’ I said. ‘And don’t say unfortunately. You and I have survived a world war, we’ve had plenty of near escapes from sudden death—and I don’t see why the sudden death of just one old man—how old was he, by the way?’

‘Eighty-seven.’

‘Of course. It was in the Times. If you ask me, he just died of old age, and any self-respecting GP[19] would accept the fact.’

 

‘If you’d known my grandfather,’ said Sophia, ‘you’d have been surprised at his dying of anything!’

Chapter 3

I’d always taken a certain amount of interest in my father’s police work, but nothing had prepared me for the moment when I should come to take a direct and personal interest in it.

I had not yet seen the Old Man. He had been out when I arrived, and after a bath, a shave, and a change I had gone out to meet Sophia. When I returned to the house, however, Glover told me that he was in his study.

He was at his desk, frowning over a lot of papers. He jumped up when I came in.

‘Charles! Well, well, it’s been a long time.’

Our meeting, after five years of war, would have disappointed a Frenchman. Actually all the emotion of reunion was there all right. The Old Man and I are very fond of[20] each other, and we understand each other pretty well.

‘I’ve got some whisky,’ he said. ‘Say when[21]. Sorry I was out when you got here. I’m up to the ears in work. Hell of a case just unfolding.’

I leaned back[22] in my chair and lit a cigarette.

‘Aristide Leonidews?’ I asked.

His brows came down quickly over his eyes. He shot me a quick appraising glance. His voice was polite and steely.

‘Now what makes you say that, Charles?’

‘I’m right then?’

‘How did you know about this?’

‘Information received.’

The Old Man waited.

‘My information,’ I said, ‘came from the stable[23] itself.’

‘Come on, Charles, let’s have it[24].’

‘You mayn’t like it,’ I said. I met Sophia Leonides out in Cairo. I fell in love with her. I’m going to marry her. I met her tonight. She dined with me.’

‘Dined with you? In London? I wonder just how she managed to do that! The family was asked—oh, quite politely, to stay put[25].’

‘Quite so. She shinned down a pipe from the bathroom window.’

The Old Man’s lips twitched for a moment into a smile.

She seems,’ he said, ‘to be a young lady of some resource[26].’

‘But your police force is fully efficient,’ I said. ‘A nice Army type tracked her to Mario’s. I shall figure in the reports you get. Five foot eleven, brown hair, brown eyes, dark-blue pin-stripe suit[27], etc.’

The Old Man looked at me hard.

‘Is this—serious?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘It’s serious, Dad.’

There was a moment’s silence.

‘Do you mind?’ I asked.

‘I shouldn’t have minded—a week ago. They’re a well-established family—the girl will have money—and I know you. You don’t lose your head easily. As it is—’

‘Yes, Dad?’

‘It may be all right, if—’

‘If what?’

‘If the right person did it.’

It was the second time that night I had heard that phrase. I began to be interested.

‘Just who is the right person?’

He threw a sharp glance at me.

‘How much do you know about it all?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Nothing?’ He looked surprised. ‘Didn’t the girl tell you?’

‘No. She said she’d rather I saw it all—from an outside point of view.’

‘Now I wonder why that was?’

‘Isn’t it rather obvious?’

‘No, Charles. I don’t think it is.’

He walked up and down frowning. He had lit a cigar and the cigar had gone out. That showed me just how disturbed the old boy was.

‘How much do you know about the family?’ he shot at me.

‘Damn all! I know there was the old man and a lot of sons and grandchildren and in-laws. I haven’t got the ramifications[28] clear.’ I paused and then said, ‘You’d better put me in the picture, Dad.’

‘Yes.’ He sat down. ‘Very well then—I’ll begin at the beginning—with Aristide Leonides. He arrived in England when he was twenty-four.’

‘A Greek from Smyrna.’

‘You do know that much?’

‘Yes, but it’s about all I do know.’

The door opened and Glover came in to say that Chief Inspector Taverner was here.

‘He’s in charge of the case,’ said my father. ‘We’d better have him in. He’s been checking up on the family. Knows more about them than I do.’

I asked if the local police had called in the Yard.

‘It’s in our jurisdiction. Swinly Dean is Greater London[29].’ I nodded as Chief Inspector Taverner came into the room. I knew Taverner from many years back. He greeted me warmly and congratulated me on my safe return.

‘I’m putting Charles in the picture,’ said the Old Man. ‘Correct me if I go wrong, Taverner. Leonides came to London in 188’. He started up a little restaurant in Soho. It paid. He started up another. Soon he owned seven or eight of them. They all paid hand over fist.’

‘Never made any mistakes in anything he hand led,’ said Chief Inspector Taverner.

‘He’d got a natural flair,’ said my father. ‘In the end he was behind most of the well-known restaurants in London. Then he went into the catering business in a big way.’

‘He was behind a lot of other businesses as well,’ said Taverner. ‘Second-hand clothes trade, cheap jewellery stores, lots of things. Of course,’ he added thoughtfully, ‘he was always a twister.’

‘You mean he was a crook?’ I asked.

Taverner shook his head.

‘No, I don’t mean that. Crooked, yes—but not a crook. Never anything outside the law. But he was the sort of chap that thought up all the ways you can get round the law. He’s cleaned up[30] a packet that way even in this last war, and old as he was. Nothing he did was ever illegal— but as soon as he’d got on to it, you had to have a law about it, if you know what I mean. But by that time he’d gone on to the next thing.’

‘He doesn’t sound a very attractive character,’ I said.

‘Funnily enough[31], he was attractive. He’d got personality, you know. You could feel it. Nothing much to look at. Just a gnome—ugly little fellow—but magnetic—women always fell for him.’

‘He made a rather astonishing marriage,’ said my father. ‘Married the daughter of a country squire—an MFH[32].’

I raised my eyebrows. ‘Money?’

The Old Man shook his head.

‘No, it was a love match. She met him over some catering arrangements for a friend’s wedding—and she fell for him. Her parents cut up rough, but she was determined to have him. I tell you, the man had charm—there was something exotic and dynamic about him that appealed to her. She was bored stiff with her own kind.’

‘And the marriage was happy?’

‘It was very happy, oddly enough. Of course their respective friends didn’t mix (those were the days before money swept aside all class distinctions) but that didn’t seem to worry them. They did without friends. He built a rather preposterous house at Swinly Dean and they lived there and had eight children.’

‘This is indeed a family chronicle.’

‘Old Leonides was rather clever to choose Swinly Dean. It was only beginning to be fashionable then. The second and third golf courses hadn’t been made. There was a mixture of Old Inhabitants who were passionately fond of their gardens and who liked Mrs Leonides, and rich City men who wanted to be in with Leonides, so they could take their choice of acquaintances. They were perfectly happy, I believe, until she died of pneumonia in 1905.’

‘Leaving him with eight children?’

‘One died in infancy. Two of the sons were killed in the last war. One daughter married and went to Australia and died there. An unmarried daughter was killed in a motor accident. Another died a year or two ago. There are two still living—the eldest son, Roger, who is married but has no children, and Philip, who married a well-known actress and has three children. Your Sophia, Eustace, and Josephine.’

‘And they are all living at—what is it?—Three Gables?’

‘Yes. The Roger Leonides were bombed out early in the war. Philip and his family have lived there since 1937. And there’s an elderly aunt, Miss de Haviland, sister of the first Mrs Leonides. She always loathed her brother-in-law apparently, but when her sister died she considered it her duty to accept her brother-in-law’s invitation to live with him and bring up the children.’

‘She’s very hot on duty,’ said Inspector Taverner. ‘But she’s not the kind that changes her mind about people. She always disapproved of Leonides and his methods—’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘it seems a pretty good houseful. Who do you think killed him?’

Taverner shook his head.

‘Early days,’ he said, ‘early days to say that.’

‘Come on, Taverner,’ I said. ‘I bet you think you know who did it. We’re not in court, man.’

‘No,’ said Taverner gloomily. ‘And we never may be.’

‘You mean he may not have been murdered?’

‘Oh, he was murdered all right. Poisoned. But you know what these poisoning cases are like. It’s very tricky getting the evidence. Very tricky. All the possibilities may point one way—’

‘That’s what I’m trying to get at. You’ve got it all taped out in your mind, haven’t you?’

‘It’s a case of very strong probability. It’s one of those obvious things. The perfect set-up. But I don’t know, I’m sure. It’s tricky.’

I looked appealingly at the Old Man.

He said slowly: ‘In murder cases, as you know, Charles, the obvious is usually the right solution. Old Leonides married again, ten years ago.’

‘When he was seventy-seven?’

‘Yes, he married a young woman of twenty-four.’

I whistled.

‘What sort of a young woman?’

‘A young woman out of a tea-shop. A perfectly respectable young woman—good-looking in an anemic, apathetic sort of way.’

‘And she’s the strong probability?’

‘I ask you, sir,’ said Taverner. ‘She’s only thirty-four now—and that’s a dangerous age. She likes living soft. And there’s a young man in the house. Tutor to the grandchildren. Not been in the war—got a bad heart or something. They’re as thick as thieves[33].’

I looked at him thoughtfully. It was, certainly, an old and familiar pattern. The mixture as before. And the second Mrs Leonides was, my father had emphasized, very respectable. In the name of respectability many murders had been committed.

‘What was it?’ I asked. ‘Arsenic?’

‘No. We haven’t got the analyst’s report yet—but the doctor thinks it’s eserine.’

‘That’s a little unusual, isn’t it? Surely easy to trace the purchaser.’

‘Not this thing. It was his own stuff, you see. Eyedrops.’

‘Leonides suffered from[34] diabetes,’ said my father. ‘He had regular injections of insulin. Insulin is given out in small bottles with a rubber cap. A hypodermic needle[35] is pressed down through the rubber cap and the injection drawn up.’

I guessed the next bit.

‘And it wasn’t insulin in the bottle, but eserine?’

‘Exactly.’

‘And who gave him the injection?’ I asked.

‘His wife.’

I understood now what Sophia meant by the ‘right person’.

I asked: ‘Does the family get on well with[36] the se cond Mrs Leonides?’

‘No. I gather they are hardly on speaking terms.’

It all seemed clearer and clearer. Nevertheless, Inspector Taverner was clearly not happy about it.

‘What don’t you like about it?’ I asked him.

‘If she did it, Mr Charles, it would have been so easy for her to substitute a bona fide[37] bottle of insulin afterwards. In fact, if she is guilty, I can’t imagine why on earth[38] she didn’t do just that.’

‘Yes, it does seem indicated. Plenty of insulin about?’

‘Oh yes, full bottles and empty ones. And if she’d done that, ten to one the doctor wouldn’t have spotted it. Very little is known of the post-mortem appea rances in human poisoning by eserine. But as it was he checked up on the insulin (in case it was the wrong strength or something like that) and so, of course, he soon spotted that it wasn’t insulin.’

‘So it seems,’ I said thoughtfully, ‘that Mrs Leonides was either very stupid—or possibly very clever.’

‘You mean—’

‘That she may be gambling on your coming to the conclusion that nobody could have been as stupid as she appears to have been. What are the alternatives? Any other—suspects?’

The Old Man said quietly:

‘Practically anyone in the house could have done it. There was always a good store of insulin—at least a fortnight’s supply. One of the phials could have been tampered with[39], and replaced in the knowledge that it would be used in due course.’

‘And anybody, more or less, had access to them?’

‘They weren’t locked away. They were kept on a special shelf in the medicine cupboard in the bathroom of his part of the house. Everybody in the house came and went freely.’

‘Any strong motive?’

My father sighed.

‘My dear Charles, Aristide Leonides was enormously rich. He has made over a good deal of his mo ney to his family, it is true, but it may be that somebody wanted more.’

‘But the one that wanted it most would be the present widow. Has her young man any money?’

‘No. Poor as a church mouse.’

Something clicked in my brain. I remembered Sophia’s quotation. I suddenly remembered the whole verse of the nursery rhyme:

 
There was a crooked man and he went a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence beside a crooked stile.
He had a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
 

I said to Taverner:

‘How does she strike you—Mrs Leonides? What do you think of her?’

He replied slowly:

‘It’s hard to say—very hard to say. She’s not easy. Very quiet—so you don’t know what she’s thinking. But she likes living soft—that I’ll swear I’m right about. Puts me in mind, you know, of a cat, a big pur ring lazy cat… Not that I’ve anything against cats. Cats are all right…’

He sighed.

‘What we want,’ he said, ‘is evidence.’

Yes, I thought, we all wanted evidence that Mrs Leonides had poisoned her husband. Sophia wanted it, and I wanted it, and Chief Inspector Taverner wanted it.

Then everything in the garden would be lovely!

But Sophia wasn’t sure, and I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t think Chief Inspector Taverner was sure either.

1in an official capacity – в занимаемой должности
2dry sense of humour – сдержанное чувство юмора
3without batting an eyelash – не моргнув и глазом
4to size up – оценить
5soak-the-rich (разг.) – «выкачай из богачей» (система, при которой бремя основных тягот налогообложения несут состоятельные классы общества)
6deal with (зд.) – делится (идеями)
7to be concerned – быть не безразличным к к.-л.
8the Times – «Таймс», ежедневная газета в Великобритании, выходит в печать с 1785 года.
9swing doors – вращающиеся двери
10to tide over – помочь преодолеть
11swing into focus (зд.) – встать на свои места
12to draw breath – выдохнуть
13to be willing to – быть добровольно готовым (сделать ч.-л.)
14in one's shirt – в одной рубахе
15post mortem (лат.) – вскрытие
16Assistant Commissioner = AC– помощник комиссара
17how does one put it? – как это называют?
18to play a lone hand (зд.) – действовать в одиночку
19GP – семейный врач
20to be fond of – быть привязанным к к.-л.
21Say when – скажи, когда хватит
22to lean back – откинуться
23from the stable – из первых рук
24let's have it (разг.) – говори же
25to stay put – никуда не отлучаться
26of resource – находчивый
27pin-stripe suit – костюм в узкую полоску
28ramifications (зд.) – родственные связи
29Greater London – Большой Лондон. Аминистративно-территориальная единица; состоит из Лондона и частей графств Мидлсекс, Эссекс, Кент, Суррей, Хартфордшир; делится на 32 района и Сити
30to clean up – сорвать куш
31funnily enough – как ни странно
32MFH – Master of Foxhounds; хозяин гончих (титул главы охотничьего общества и владельца своры гончих)
33thick as thieves – закадычные друзья
34to suffer from – страдать от
35hypodermic needle – игла для подкожных инъекций
36to get on well with – ладить с
37bona fide (зд.) – правильный (флакон)
38why on earth – почему же
39to tamper with – подменить