Thursday, 27 March 2014

Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Headline edition book cover of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
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.

Read Charlotte's review of And Then There Were None at Lit Addicted Brit.

12 comments:

  1. I love this one and haven't reread it in a looooooong time -- I might this summer -- I'm kind of in the mood for a book like that!

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  2. I've only ever read one, The ABC Murders or something (?) and it didn't impress me. I should probably try another one. I like that this is neither a Poirot or Marple one, I think ITV dramas have infiltrated my brain too much.

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    1. The ABC Murders didn't impress me much either and I DO like Poirot! She wrote SO many books that you can't really expect them all to be five stars.

      The lack of detective just kind of... works here. The panicked confusion just adds to the tension :)

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  3. I really do need to read this, don't I? I wanted to read it back when Ten came out (a modern update by Gretchen McNeil), but didn't end up reading EITHER. Then someone bought it for me as an RAK sometime, and it's been sitting atop Mount TBR ever since awaiting the right moment for a murder mystery binge read. Hopefully April will provide just the kind of rainy, showery, blustery day that makes you want to sit down and devour a book whole.
    P.S. WE ALL KNOW IT WAS COLONEL BOBCAT IN THE LIBRARY WITH THE ANTIQUE CANDLESTICK. I was always good at Cluedo. :)

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    1. You do, yes.

      I wanted to read Ten as well, but then I didn't want it to be rubbish and thereby ruin this one for me so I just didn't bother.

      Did I buy you that? :s Or maybe Charlotte, as she read it last year? I feel like we've either had this conversation before or I somehow contributed to your ownership of this book!

      When I was in University, we had the Ann Summers version of Cluedo and that's all I think of now!

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    2. Do I want to know? *flutters eyelashes* Was it Rebel McBelle, in the dungeon, with the horse whip? Or Tamara Kitten, in the boudoir, with the feather boa? TRY TO KEEP THE BLOOD FLOW AROUND YOUR BRAIN AREA LONG ENOUGH TO WORK IT OUT.

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  4. I might give this one a shot! The plot sounds interesting :)

    I've tried reading Agatha Christie before and didn't get along too well with it - I started to read murder on the orient express, which probably didn't pull me in because I already knew what happened as I'd seen it on the tv! But all Japanese libraries and bookshops seem to have a huge selection of Agatha Christie novels in English, so if I like one then there would be a massive selection available to read afterwards. Yay!

    I looked up what the original title was, and.. what?! Hehe. Different times, I guess, but still... I'm assuming that there's none of that actually in the book...

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    1. To be fair, Murder on the Orient Express isn't a favourite of mine anyway and I read it WITHOUT knowing what happened. AC wrote so many books that you can't really expect every single one to be five stars. Different ones appeal to different people, but I haven't heard anybody say anything negative about this one.

      God no, nothing like that at all. The original title referred to a poem that one of the characters quotes - the story itself isn't even remotely racist or derogotary.

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  5. Oh THIS is the one with the bad bad title... *shakes head sadly*. So I read a LOT of Agatha Christie in my younger days, BUT only Poirot ones because I really didn't like Miss Marple for some weird reason (I think because she seemed like this annoying busybody rather than an actual detective like Poirot. Who is awesome.) and the fab thing about that is, I can probably read them all again now and not remember whodunnit!

    So. Basically. I think I need to rekindle my Christie love. And probably definitely read this.

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    1. Yeah, me too! To, uh.. most of that comment actually.

      I read an awful lot of these books when I was younger and I didn't like Miss Marple either. She didn't DO anything! Just sat around knitting and then announced that she knew it all along whenever somebody confessed or somebody else figured it out. She drove me mad. Poirot is awesome though :)

      I don't remember whodunnit in ANY of them, which is great! Do rekindle it and do start with this one.

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  6. Hannah,

    Very belatedly, I making the rounds through the Vintage Challenge reviews. I love this Christie book--one of my top five favorites. I can reread it and reread it and it never matters that I already know the solution. I envy you that this was your first read.

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