Dear Agatha Christie, Excuse my expression of glee despite the high body count.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
A book review by Kendyl Bryant of The Adaptation Podcast.
And Then There Were None was my first Agatha Christie novel, and before I even finished this quick read, I knew it would not be my last. From the first few chapters, the notorious ‘Queen of Mystery’ had me racing through the pages in search of the next clue.
And Then There Were None, sometimes titled Ten Little Indians, starts off with ten strangers traveling to an island off the coast of Devon, each having been lured by a different deception. When they arrive, a recording accuses each person in turn of being complicit in the murder of someone in their past. Soon after, the accused murderers become victims themselves, being killed off one by one, the survivors getting more frantic with each death trying to figure out who planned the whole ugly event.
That probably sounds like a situation that you’ve seen a host of times, and to that I would gently remind you that this novel was written in 1939. So rather than being a trite repetition of a plot based on a group of people trapped in a mysterious house, it is likely to have been one of the first. More than that, it’s completely unpredictable, even if you think you’ve seen it before.
Christie does an amazing job in this novel of making her readers think that they are in control, that they know what is happening and she is incredibly free about giving them a glimpse into the characters’ minds and even the killer’s. She offers up a script, then allows her readers to play detective. And when they are sure they’ve almost figured it out, she pulls the rug from under their feet.
It’s not until the novel is done and the killer revealed that you realize she has given you nothing, mere breadcrumbs from a bakery full of goods. Her writing is so plot-focused, taken up completely with thoughts and actions while having little to no description, that it hurdles forward leaving even the most Sherlockian detective skills in the dust (though I’d venture to guess that Sherlock would have figured it out before the reveal, that clever man).
“I hope you won’t judge me too harshly when I say that this novel was fun, despite its high body count.”
And through all that, I laughed – a lot. While often in a state of frenzied worry about who is offing them and who will be the next victim, Christie’s characters still find time for dry wit, giving way to a sense of humor and a certain amount of ridiculousness. There is a great deal of variation across the ten island guests, but each have an absurdity that endears them to the reader, even after being told of their appalling crimes. Ultimately, they each deserved what they got, so I hope you won’t judge me too harshly when I say that this novel was fun, despite its high body count.
I have always heard brilliant things about Agatha Christie novels (you don’t get the title Queen of Mystery by being mediocre), but reading And Then There Were None has easily joined me with the ranks of her fans. Now, from the other side, I’m telling you that this book is worth the time it takes to read, and even the time it takes to reread, as you might have the urge to do once you’ve finished.
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