And Then There Were None is my ultimate favourite Agatha Christie book and has been for years. I first read my Grandma’s copy when I was very young (although it was published under a very different and non-politically correct title) and I’ve been addicted to it ever since. I don’t read it that often because I like to give myself time to forget ‘who dunnit,’ but when I do it’s instantly comforting.
Plot summary: Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island
mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N.Owen. Over dinner, a
record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each
person of hiding a guilty secret. That evening, former reckless driver
Tony Marston is found murdered by a deadly dose of cyanide.
The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but is preparing to strike again… and again.
There’s not a lot else I can add to that synopsis without giving things away. Ten people arrive on an island, all lured there under different false pretenses, and one gentlemen is murdered that very evening. On the desk are ten little soldier figurines, but eventually the remaining guests notice that only nine soldiers remain… Dum dum dum.
It just works. I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie novels and while most of them are quite clever, this one really takes the cake. There’s no Hercule Poirot or Jane Marple in And Then There Were None – only the guests and the murderer. There’s a wonderful atmosphere of suspicion and tension as the arrow of blame swings from one guest to another as they don’t have any more idea than the reader… and it shows.
I had absolutely no idea who the culprit could be although their motivation becomes clear fairly early on. It would be interesting to have a dicussion about the morality of each murder as it plays a fairly heavy role in the plot. Societal views have altered since 1939 and I’m not sure I agree with some of the conclusions reached in the book. I’m aware how vague that is, but it will make sense if you’ve read it. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book in the slightest little bit, but it would make for an interesting book club conversation.
My usual (only) complaint about Agatha Christie books is that I can’t keep all the characters straight. There’s always a Lady Woofington, a Colonel Bobcat, a Mrs Froggle, and so on and eventually their personalities all mesh into one and you can’t remember who’s married to who and which neice is due to inherit the vast fortune (or whatever). For some reason though, I really didn’t have a problem with And Then There Were None. The characters are the fairly generic vintage mystery staples but somehow they all seem more real here, perhaps because less effort has gone into padding out the star detective.
There’s not a huge amount that I can say about this book that I haven’t said before about other Agatha Christie mystery novels, but if you only ever pick up one of them, make sure it’s this one. It’s my absolute favourite and I can almost guarantee you won’t see the ending coming.