And Then There Were None


Agatha Christie


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

September 4, 2021

hen I first started And Then There Were None, I thought I was going to get lost in all the characters. Christie quickly introduces us to all of the doomed invitees to Soldier Island. There are ten total guests who have received an invite to spend a week at the fancy resort island off of the coast of England. These are not the typical guests one would expect at a posh resort mansion, one is a school teacher, another is an ex-policeman, etc. None of the ten know each other. A mysterious Mr. and Mrs. Owen as sent a personal request to come to the isolated off-shore retreat, and all ten accept, even though none of them know a Mr. or Mrs. Owen, nor do they know the other invitees. Yet each one has a secret that they don't want revealed.

The ten arrive at the Devon seashore to find a small boat has been hired to take them out to the mansion that stands on Soldier Island. When they disembark, they discover the Mr. and Mrs. Owen are unfortunately delayed and unable to meet the party on the first night. However, a first-rate dinner is served, and each guest is given a posh room in the luxurious building; though they privately wonder how they managed to score such a visit to the glamorous resort. In each of their rooms, a nursery rhyme hangs framed on the wall - it recounts a series of misfortunes that befall a group of ten soldiers, each suffers a deadly fate - the last line of nursery rhyme is: "And then there were none." At first, everyone assumes that this is just a curious bit ornamentation. Then the deaths begin, and the party of ten realizes that they are "the soldiers" and an appointment with death is planned for each of them.

Agatha Christie ratcheted up the tension as each of the ten realize that they are a potential murder victim. The daily boat to the island does not appear. Mr. and Mrs. Owen fail to make an appearance. The characters suspect each other, and are scandalized when the others accuse them. They need to band together against their common foe - but who is the foe? Clearly, they cannot trust each other.

Christie certainly kept me guessing about the who. why and how these crimes were committed. As I read the book, my guesses kept changing as the list of remaining characters kept getting shorter. I was sorta right at one point on how the murderer disguised themselves, though I had the wrong character. Then further plot developments caused me to change my mind. I don't want to say any further about the plot, because I don't want to spoil any surprise. Christie was a prolific writer, but I think And Then There Were None is one of her most famous novels. It vaguely reminded me of the mystery in Beau Geste, where the French Foreign Legion hastens to the aid of Fort Zindernauf, only to find every one of the defending soldiers in the fort is dead, yet the attacking Arabs have been driven off without overcoming the defenses.

I liked the writing. Christie doesn't waste time with extraneous details or unnecessary descriptions. The entire paperback edition fits into 250 pages. The chapters are short, with the focus jumping from character to character, especially as their number gets whittled down. The pace is quick, and the mystery is baffling. But everything is explained in the end. Perhaps all the events would not have gone so smoothly for the murderer in real life; the scheme had to work perfectly without the perpetrator getting caught, but it is an enjoyable plot.

One thing that seemed baffling to me is how the surviving people on the island still expect the butler to prepare meals and keep up serving them even as the deaths have begun. At that point, wouldn't the butler (and everyone else) be more concerned with self preservation than with maintaining class and appearances?

I should read more of Christie's novels. The edition I read claimed that only Shakespeare and the Bible had sold more books than Agatha Christie. I wonder if that is still true, or if someone else (Harry Potter?) has overtaken her.