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In the novel Crooked House, Charles Hayward is a young man serving in the diplomatic service and is the chief protagonist and first person narrator of the story.

During the Second World War, Charles served in Cairo as part of the diplomatic service. While there he met Sophia Leonides in an official capacity. They became friends and enjoyed many dinners and dances together. On the eve of being posted somewhere in the Far East, Charles dined with Sophia at Shepheard's Hotel and while there, he declared his love for her. He tells her that he would not ask her to marry him yet as he would be leaving for the Far East soon. He would do so when he got back to England at the end of his posting.

When World War Two ended two years later, Charles was posted back to England. He arranged to met with Sophia at Mario's. However he was not to know about the complicated developments in Sophia's family which resulted in her literally having to climb out through a window and escape from her house to meet him. Sophia tells him that her grandfather, the wealthy Aristide Leonides had just died under suspicious circumstances and until the truth is found, they cannot marry because a cloud of suspicion would always hang over her and the rest of her family. Moreover Sophia does not want to tell him her views on the death. She wants how to see the family from an unbiased outside perspective.

Charles approaches his father, Arthur Hayward for help. He s not only an assistant commissioner of Scotland Yard but is also supervising the case. "The Old Man" Hayward uses Charles' relationship with Sophia to advantage and takes the opportunity to insert Charles as a house guest of the Leonides family at Three Gables. Charles dislikes being a police spy on his girlfriend's family but his father reasons that the only way to solve the case is to get the "inside dope" on the family. Sophia agrees and thinks this is just about the only approach that would help. Charles is well-placed. Besides the help of Sophia, he has some standing with the police as he had worked with Special Branch during the early days of the war. In addition he knew Chief Inspector Taverner, the investigating officer, well.

After the murder is resolved Charles once again proposes to Sophia and tells her that he is being appointed to a post in Persia. He wishes her to join him.