Mystery/Thriller

My Review: And Then There Were None: by Agatha Christie

***All info is for the this edition***
Publish Date: May 3rd 2004
Number of Pages: 264 Pages
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Genre(s): Mystery

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

The mystery to inspire many mysteries, And Then There Were None is perhaps the masterpiece of the Queen of mystery herself, Agatha Christie. Never before has a murder mystery novel like this been referenced as much as it has, even almost 70 years later, and no writer ever can quite match the harsh, blunt and rigid words of Agatha Christie and her dark tales.

This book is no different. it’s not soft, or warm, and it’s about as charming as a graveyard. It’s strange yet fascinating how the author was able to tell such iconic tales with the level of simplicity that she brought. if you look at most of her work, you see that they aren’t exactly thick pieces of literature. You could easily read her works in one sitting, and I appreciate the fact about it is that it’s because the author was so no nonsense, and just got straight to the point in her style of writing. Despite the light amount of pages and her delicacy with her prose, her stories are so dark an harrowing, they rarely allow yourself to get comfortable. As soon as you even begin to stop and catch your breath, something happens that takes the rug out from beneath your feet, the floor crumbles and takes you out and forces you forward, deeper into the depths with no hope of seeing light ever again.

What It’s About:

Ten Strangers end up on a small island off the coast of England, all at the invitation of a reclusive and eccentric millionaire who none of them know. Even as they all arrive, they begin to wonder what could possibly be the reason that brought this random assortment of people together? Each person seems to be hiding something, keeping everyone at a safe distance, and figure out why they’re all there.

A framed nursery rhyme called “Ten Little Soldiers” (or titled something else, based off what edition you read) is hung in every guest’s room, and the dining room table set with ten little figures. Later that night while all attending a dinner party and awaiting the arrival of their host, a gramophone recording plays out and reveals a terrible deed that every person has been involved with. It turns out that they’ve all been accused of murder, and so very few of them are actually willing to admit it.

Shortly after, the first guest dies, poisoned by cyanide.

The next morning, another is found dead, and the weight of their situation fully dawns upon all of them; someone on the island wants them all dead. The millionaire never existed, and someone tricked all of them to come onto the island so that they could kill off each and every one of them with very little chance of escape or rescue. No one has left or entered the island, so the killer is one of them. The even creepier part? Every death follows the nursery rhyme that constantly shows up amongst the paranoia, the rage, and the fear:

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 traveling 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…

Every time theres a new victim, a figure on the dining room table mysteriously vanishes along with them. No one is safe, everyone has a price to pay, and soon, all of them could fall victim to this unknown terror. They accuse each other of being the killer; the only ones innocent are those that are already dead. Can they figure it out before they’re all dead by morning?

What I liked:

  1. The Sheer Creepiness Factor! The factor of the nursery rhyme is sheer genius. I don’t know what kind of nursery tale talks about killing people, but the fact that its used so much in the story and referenced often is so freakin’ creepy. The idea of someone actually coming up with ways to kill people that matched up to the rhyme is also absolutely terrifying. How they’re executed, and how the victims are selected for each act is unknown, but still, it’s something that could keep someone up at night just thinking about how it was all done.
  2. No Clues Whodunnit! There are hardly any clues that the author gives out to allow readers to try and figure out who was behind all the gruesome murders. It felt like even self professed “Murder Mystery Pro’s” wouldn’t be able to figure it out based on what the author gives them within the pages. The only thing you can really do is ride it out and wait to see the big reveal of who was the killer after all, as sad and depressing as it sounds.
  3. The Dark Characters! Agatha Christie doesn’t waste time getting attached to her characters. Each and every one of them are morally dark characters; only a very select few have some lighter, redeeming qualities. It helps in adding tension to the story and keeps you from ever having any idea is behind all of it. The only character who seems truly likeable in any regard is Vera Claythorne, but even that isn’t all that secure as you read on and wonder if she was ever truly sorry for the crime that she committed. In fact, the moral lesson of this story makes me think about the dark side of our society and how we all are guilty to some degree, and whether we can admit it to ourselves, or keep it hidden and hide behind facades that we create for ourselves.
  4. How Short It Is! How is it that such an iconic story is so short? While I’m someone who usually loves well round, developed characters and a well thought out world, Agatha Christie doesn’t waste time with any of that. She doesn’t need to give out a ton of background information to explain her characters and their moral code, and it works. Its simple, its no nonsense, and straight to the point, and its quite successful without any non essential information anyways.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Characters Kept Splitting Up…Whenever there’s a killer in the house, in any sort of horror setting, when is it ever a good idea to split up? It’s pretty much asking for the killer to come find you, making it so much easier for them to kill them off one by one. If I was in this situation, I’d freakin’ barricade myself in my room, away from all these other crazy mofo’s and possibly adding to the chances of me making it out alive. Sure, it doesn’t make for all that great of a story, but logic triumphs over entertainment!

Conclusion:

Overall, this is perhaps the most referenced murder mystery of all time, And Then There Were None is perhaps a title that sticks with readers more than any other. It’s bleak and dark tone haunts you for days afterward, filling you with dread and remorse and questioning everyone that comes into contact with you. It’s not a happy book by any means, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to read.

I also have to mention that other than reading this book, I highly recommend checking out the BBC 3-part special thats based off the book. It’s so wonderfully done; the cinematography is a work of art that expertly captures the essence and tone of this book even all these years later with an amazing cast to breathe new life into these characters. It stars Maeve Dormody, who I’ll admit I have idea who she is, but she played the role of Vera terrifically. There’s also Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones), Aidan Turner (Kili from The Hobbit Trilogy), and Sam Neill (Grant from Jurassic Park).

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

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