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[319] And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

” In the centre of the round table, on a circular glass stand, were some little china figures. . . . What fun! They’re the ten little Indian boys of the nursery rhyme, I suppose. In my bedroom the rhyme is framed and hung up over the mantelpiece. ” [3:40]

Creepy. Although readers know the outcome of the story by way of the title, there is something very creepy about And Then There Were None. Ten people dead on an island and not a living soul on it. The person who picked up the guests also perished. A curious assortment of strangers answers a suitable bait of a letter, respectively, and is summoned as weekend guest to a private island. These people would never have crossed paths were it not for U.N. Owen’s invitation: a doctor, a governess, a soldier of fortune, a carefree playboy, an ex-cop, a judge, a retired general and a married couple who are to be servants in a luxurious house that is well stocked with amenities.

Whoever it was who enticed us here, that person knows or has taken the trouble to find out a good deal about us all. [4:57]

All that the guests have in common is a wicked past that they are not prepared to reveal. They were involved in undertakings (accidents, neglect, sin of omission) that were beyond the reach of the law. In each of the bedrooms, the Ten Little Indians nursery rhyme is posted on a prominent wall. Ten china figurines are (curiously) placed in the center of the round table in the dining room. One by one the guests fall prey, in a manner paralleling, inexorably and sometimes grotesquely, the nursery rhyme.

It’s those little figures, sir. In the middle of the table. The little china figures. Ten of them, there were, I’ll swear to that, ten of them. [6:95]

Despite the story’s being highly artificial, a sense of inexorable diminishment and inevitability, as dictated by the nursery rhyme, renders the book highly suspenseful. If the dead are all above suspicion, who could have murdered them? Is it some evil supernatural force or ingenious murder? Then novel, even down to the minute details, is full of shock that when the guests realize their fate is aligned to the rhyme, it is too late. They have been eddied into the murderous downward spiral, and panic reaches a pitch. The closed setting (the guests are cut off from mainland) with the succession of deaths is taken to its logical conclusion. And Then There Were None is one of the very best mystery, most genuinely bewildering with no false trails and red herrings.

275 pp. Mass Paperback. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

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31 Responses

  1. I’m going to be reading a lot of Christie next year. Can not wait to get to this one!

  2. Now you’ve piqued my curiosity! I need to check this out!

  3. You made it sound so exciting! I can’t wait to read it. I just purchased The Big Four at lunch time and I am going to get started on that too

    • I’ve got The Big Four as well. The new (trade paperback) edition of And Then There Were None had suggested titles at the end that are comparable to the book itself. I’m going through Towards Zero, Sparkling Cyanide, and Train to Franfort.

  4. This is the only Agatha Christie I’ve read, but I loved it. Nice review!

  5. I read this Agatha Christie in high school for year 10 English and absolutely loved it. Gobbled it up ahead of the class and then happily went back to go through it again at the group pace. Unfortunately, I can’t remember a thing and so am looking forward to re-reading it one day.

    • That’s the beauty of Agatha Christie…you know it’s a roller coaster of a ride but you don’t exactly remember all the details and how the books end. I can always pick up her book and read without knowing the ending.

  6. Sounds great! I’ve never read any Agatha Christie beyond the Marple ones, but the creepiness of this one sounds irresistible.

  7. I am certain that I have read this one… perhaps even twice, and yet I have no recollection of how it turns out AT ALL! This is why with the very best Agatha Christies, you can read them over and over again without ever getting sick of them!

    • Steph, I am the same way. Other than that ten people all died on the island, I don’t recall how it ended, let alone the whodunit part. Agatha Christie is an endless supply of books to entertain.

  8. I’ve been keeping an eye out for this book for ages – maybe I’ll finally have to take the plunge and order it from somewhere. Excellent review – you’ve persuaded me, anyway!

  9. I read this years ago and loved it. I thought it was called 10 Little Indians at one time, but I could be wrong. I’m a sucker for a great Agatha Christie novel.

    • Tom, I’m re-reading this book but have been thrilled just as tremendously as the first time.

      • Tom, you were correct. It was originally published as Ten Little Indians. The best film adaptation turns out to be a Russian production in 1986, also named Ten Little Indians.

  10. This one is on my shelf, it will be my 1st A.Christie, can’t wait to read it. Great review of it.

  11. Funny story, I have only read 2 books by Christie, both when I was young (high school). Though I enjoyed them, I never read anything by her again, just because I’m not a fan of mystery. This book is one of the two! I don’t remember the title, but I clearly remember the plot (which I recognized almost immediately). I even remember how it turns out at the end. Very distinctive and memorable storyline!

    • Plot is definitely memorable. I re-read it because it forgot how it ended. The movie (Russian adaptation) is excellent, very true to the book.

  12. I have this on hand and have been trying to read more Agatha Christie. I didn’t read any of her novels until I was an adult, but I find I really enjoy them. I just finished Endless Night–a gothic novel–I think this might have been the only one she wrote, which was so-so. But the Miss Marple mysteries I read this year have been great. I’ll have to dig out my copy of Then There Were None now!

    • Endless Night reminds me of William Blake’s poem:
      Every night and every morn,
      Some to misery are born,
      Every morn and every night,
      Some are born to sweet delight.
      Some are born to sweet delight,
      Some are born to endless night.
      I haven’t read the book but saw the film starring Hayley Mills.

  13. Despite my best intentions, I have still not read an Agatha Christie mystery. It sounds as though this would be a great one with which to start.

  14. I’ve read the book. It’s awesome and page turning. I also have read the book “the Crooked House” by Agatha Christei and I could say she really know her crap.

  15. You forgot to mention Ms.Brent

  16. […] intrigues me is And Then There Was None, the creepiest of any Christie book I have read thus far. Although readers know the outcome of the […]

  17. […] or third time around And Then There Were None still intrigues me and creeps me. The book has long achieved a cult status and makes the canonical […]

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