Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

Well what can I say? I first read this book many, many years ago and it has always stayed in my mind as my favourite of all Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries, and after this re-read, it still is.

Although there is no Poirot or Miss Marple detecting, in fact there is practically no detection at all, there have to be more murders in this book than in any other of her novels!

For those of you who haven’t read this book the basic plot is a simple one: Ten people are invited to Soldier Island off the coast of Devon, by someone they believe they know some for work and some for pleasure. Only the very slow will not realise that the most common name seems to be one Mr or Miss U.N. Owen (Unknown). We meet the various guests as they travel down and they range from the old General to the young(ish) schoolmistress. In each of the bedrooms hangs a copy of the verse:

Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.

Eight little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.

Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Five little Soldier Boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.

Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one

One little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

In total seven men and three women are in the dining room when a disembodied voice accuses the guests of wrongdoings in the past. Before the night is out there is one dead guest and one missing china soldier figure from the original set of ten… And so the mystery begins and what a terrific one it is. Not only does the reader have the pleasure of trying to identify who the killer might be from the clues given but this particular reader got great enjoyment of working out how the next death would fit with the rhyme.

In the beginning of my copy there is a quote from Agatha Christie’s biography which states that it took a tremendous amount of planning to avoid becoming ridiculous. The prologue goes on to say that she was delighted that it was so well received but the person who was really pleased with it was herself.  I can understand why!

Again being a book of its time, first published in 1939 it isn’t without some racism, in fact part of why it took me such a long time to find a good second-hand copy was because I only wanted one with this, the most modern of its titles, the others too unacceptable for my bookshelf. Even with the new title you can’t get away with some stereotyping about Jews but this wouldn’t have made the nation wince at the time it was written, as it did me. Indeed one of the reasons I like re-reading Agatha Christie’s novels are for the contemporary views at the time they were written, and in this one, although there are fewer examples we do have a few, such as those about the spinster Emily Blunt.

If you are one of those people who haven’t read any of Agatha Christie’s books, this is still my favourite and a great place to experience the Queen of Crime’s ability not only to think up a great plot but to execute it with aplomb!

 

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

38 thoughts on “And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

  1. I have seen a few TV adaptions of this over the years – it is a good story – think I mentioned before I’m not sure if I know the stories too well but I think I will give Christie a go in 2016.

  2. I am desperate to read this again. I’ve just downloaded the audio version read by Hugh Fraser so that will have to suffice until I get a copy of the book. Great review 🙂

  3. Yeah, this is definitely one of the many pinnacles of Christie’s career; it is dark, terrifying and amoral in a way that people never seem to expect if they’re rather new to – or dismissive of – Dame Agatha, and it pinned me tomy chair for the couple of hours in which I first tore through it. Interesting point I never realised: my version is set on Indian Island, and the poem concerns Ten Little Indians…didn’t realise it had been changed to ‘Soldier’.

    1. I am sure the version I read first was Indian but all the words in this edition had been changed to soldier… far more PC! It is quite a terrifying novel especially as the characters realise what is likely to happen.

      1. My version isn’t Indians or Soldiers – and the cover’s so dodgy that I didn’t show it when I reviewed the book here. It’s a classic that manages to avoid most of the structural flaws that you might expect but it’s best read with absolutely no knowledge of the plot in advance. The little that I knew made some of it a bit obvious, but it’s a fantastic achievement by Dame Agatha.

  4. Lovely review. I went through an Agatha Christie phase when I was a teenager so I must have read this one at some point! The new TV adaptation looks as though it could be one of the Christmas highlights.

  5. This is one of my top five Christies, Cleo,, and I’m so pleased you’ve featured it here. It’s got such an interesting plot, and I do love the buildup of tension as the people on the island begin to be aware of the danger to them. I think it’s really very well done.

  6. I haven’t read any of her books, so I am adding this one to my list of potential reads. Thanks for the warning about the cringe-worthy remarks…I have read some books like that…

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. I read this one when I was a child on my aunt’s phone and I don’t think I understood it much before. But after re-reading it as the grown-up me of today, I saw how different it was compared to other Christie books. The characters are well-rounded, the plot intense and emotional, and when I closed the book, I just felt sad for the characters because they do grow into you, despite being a short book.

  8. Yep, a great one! It’s years since I last read it (my copy is so old I’m afraid it has the original title). I must make sure I add ‘more Christie’ to my New Year’s Resolutions…

  9. Funny that you should review this book. I had a conversation the other day about the film Alien. The other person had never seen it so I was describing it. Someone else chimed in and then we were discussing the horror film format of a bunch of people in a specific location (a camp, a town, a haunted house etc) and how they are bumped off in horrible ways one after another. You know the format. And that led to And Then There Were None. It was the first time I realized that Christie really follows that systematic bumping off of victims that is now the standard fare in Hollywood horror films. Curious.

  10. This was a very memorable Christie and it was so creepy! It’s interesting to read the insight about the struggles Christie had with keeping the plot this side of creepy/plausible and not ridiculous – I think it is a lot harder than people would imagine.
    Happy Christmas too, hope everything is going OK for you.

  11. Sounds great! I am new to Christie. I have been meaning to read one of her books for the longest time, and actually own several. I don’t know what’s holding me back. I love mystery, I love classic books that everyone still talks about…Maybe it is just a matter of too many books and all that jazz.

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