” 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]