And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
To anyone that has yet to read an Agatha Christie novel, I gasp in shock. You are severely missing out. While the writing is sometimes simple and maybe at times juvenile (ie: Lombard said: ….. Berta said: ….. Justice said: …..), this is a woman that is only surpassed in sales by Shakespeare and the Bible. Her book covers tout her as The Queen of Mystery. If you are going to read any Christie novel (especially if you haven’t read her before), pick up The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, or this one, And Then There Were None.
I mention The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, because in other reviews these novels are often compared. It is very close in style and quality of mystery. They are also equal in the level of surprise or twist at the end of the novel. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd almost got Christie in trouble with The Detection Club, a group of mystery writers in which she was a member. It was kind of a rule, at the time, that in mystery novels, the reader was supposed to be given all or enough information in order to solve the mystery. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and potentially, And Then There Were None, break that rule to different degrees. That being said, these two novels are beautiful and my favourite Christie novels because of that reason. And Then There Were None is going to make your head hurt trying to figure out who the murderer is. And if there is no other reason for reading a mystery novel, it is to make you think.
And Then There Were None begins with, to me, a disturbing little nursery rhyme. It is, essentially, the premise and inspiration for the novel:
Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self then there were Nine. (Frank Green, 1869).
I don’t feel I need to write the rest of the poem because the premise is pretty simple, while gruesome. It’s a count down to there being none. And Then There Were None. The entire novel is focused on ten individuals while they are stuck on an isolated, Soldier Island. During their first night, a mysterious U.N. Owen, through a recorded message on a gramophone, accuses them all of murder. All have committed crimes that the law cannot properly prosecute, and as such, U.N. Owen has taken it upon himself to make sure justice is served. As the novel progresses, Christie gives us a glimpse of each of these crimes, as well as how each guilty party feels about their actions. Admittedly, there are different levels of guilt; some are the result of accidents, while others were deliberate.
One might think that this novel is going to get monotonous; the title basically tells the reader what is going to happen. People are going to start dropping like flies until there are none, and everyone is going to be confused as to whom is the murderer and how they accomplished this grand scheme. It even required an epilogue to the epilogue in order to explain who the murderer was and how it was committed (i.e. if you’ve read this novel, and managed to figure it out, kudos. I consider you to be a genius. Seriously.) Christie, herself, states in the Author’s Note: “I wrote the book after a tremendous amount of planning, and I was pleased with what I had made of it. It was clear, straightforward, baffling, and yet had an epilogue in order to explain it” (And Then There Were None, 2011).
What is absolutely amazing about this novel is the simplicity in which the psychology of the situation is presented. Can you imagine being surrounded by ten people, on an isolated island, and one person may be a deranged psychopath who is planning to pick you off one by one?? It is interesting to see how each person views the situation and how they respond. The killer seemingly ranks the accused by levels of guilt, and as such, those that are killed first are essentially spared the psychological torture that a situation like this can provide.
I simply want to watch the movie (because of course this was made into a film) when this moment happened:
Aeons passed… worlds spun and whirled … Time was motionless … it stood still – it passed through a thousand ages …
No, it was only a minute or so …
Two people were standing looking down on a dead man …
Slowly, very slowly, _______ and ________ lifted their heads and looked into each other’s eyes … (And Then There Were None, 2011, p. 261).
That is literary and cinematic gold.
I can’t really say much else, except that And Then There Were None is a great mystery. Christie baffles you. You will be scratching your head and looking at each character as suspiciously as they are looking at one another.