Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Bewildering Mystery

And Then There Were None is the signature novel of Agatha Christie, the most beloved work of the world's bestselling novelist. It is a masterpiece of mystery and suspense that has been a fixture in popular literature for more than sixty years, a brilliant tale that remains as compelling today as ever.

First, there were ten- a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to any of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they're unwilling to reveal- and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder, and one by one they begin to fall prey to an unseen hand. As the only people on the island, unable to leave and unable to call for help, they know that the only possible suspects are among their number. And only the dead are above suspicion.
Title: And Then There Were None
Author: Dame Agatha Christie
Start & Finished: 6/1/08-6/2/08
Published: 1939
Publisher: G. P. Putnum
Pages: 204
Genre: Mystery

Agatha Christie’s most popular and most adapted stand-alone mystery, And Then There Were None has gone through a few re-writes and name changes over the years after the original title was deemed socially unacceptable. Like several of her other novels, this was partly inspired by a nursery rhyme by Septimus Winner called Ten Little Indians (the second name the story was published under) and then re-written to suit the purpose of the novel but it was also inspired by the real life Burgh Island too.

Recently I read my first Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express who’s ending truly surprised me, so you would think I would be at least a little more prepared to read this one, but I never saw this ending coming either! Like Murder on the Orient Express, there were quite a few characters (10 to be exact) and for the first 100 pages I had to have a sheet of names reminding me who was who but as the “less guilty” parties died, the strong personalities of the others shined through. However, I never spared any sympathy for the Indian Island inhabitants; I just wanted to know who would die next! The unusual method of a killer’s interpretation of a poem is what makes this story so unique because of the effect it had on the characters. It made them even more tense to realize that they were dealing with a madman who could hide his madness by making everyone around him insane too.

Lest I seem unnecessarily bloodthirsty, let me explain: all and I mean all, of the guests of Mr. U.N. Owen are guilty of murder or lead to the death of a person- it just can’t be proven. For example, someone perjured their self on the witness stand and because of their testimony, an innocent person was sent to prison where he died, another person purposefully sent their spouse’s lover on a suicide mission, etc. Once Christie discovered that this book was to be adapted to the stage and that the ending and some of the reasons why the people are on the island would be re-written for a less shocking ending, she decided to re-write it herself and although not as dramatic or as interesting, it is the most commonly used form in other movie and stage adaptations. I know that there is a graphic novel being released soon based on this mystery but I would love it if a new film were made.

I think that by violating the standard mystery “rules” is what made the author such a success… rules were made to be broken after all. And Then There Were None or whatever you want to call it is a thoroughly puzzling mystery that Christie herself deemed “near-impossible” to solve. She has claimed it was one of her favorites and one which she was, understandably, proud of.

Other Agatha Christie Related: Murder on the Orient Express (book & movie)

Links: Book (Wikipedia), Author (Wikipedia), Burgh Island (Official Site)

Picture Explanations
Gramaphone: Near the beginning of the novel, a record is played condemning the guests of their crimes.
Island: This is Burgh Island, the inspiration of Indian Island from the book
Bumblebee: "Six little Indian boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five"


  1. Tink? Ladytink?? is this YOU asking for a NEW MOVIE rather than liking the old movie???.. this must be a guest post right?? Tell me it isn't so! :o)

  2. Deslily: Nope I don't do guest posts (well, so far anyways). I've already seen a really great adaptation of the movie but none of them are faithful to the book. The one I saw was based on the stageplay (and set in the mountains instead of an island) and while I really enjoyed it, I still want to see Christie's original intentions brought to the screen. Don't worry! I'm not abandoning the good movies in favor of new films!!!

  3. LOL.. I don't generally like "remakes" of movies, but there has been one or two that sneak in that I like "just as much". I hope if they redo this one that it's good!

  4. I haven't read one of her books in ages! When I was very young, this is who I read instead of Nancy!

  5. Good review!

    And Then There Were None was my first Agatha Christie book back in college and it is still my favorite. Scared the living daylights out of me. I read Orient Express second. Another favorite is Witness for the Prosecution.

    Agatha Christie is absolutely one of our greatest writers. The twists and turns she puts in her stories are genuinely interesting and unexpected.

  6. When I was pregnant with my son, I was put on complete bedrest starting in the fourth month. I spent most of my time reading, and I ended up on this huge Agatha Christie kick. I read all of her books my library had, which was dozens. About 50, I think, seriously. This was one of my favorites.

  7. Great review! I read this one years ago and loved it, and your review brought it back so fresh in my mind. I hope you read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd soon - I can't wait to hear what you think of that one!

  8. Deslily: I have to admit, remakes that I liked better than the originals are rare, if nonexistant lol

    J. Kaye: I've heard of her for years and years but it finally took one of my online book groups to give her a try. I think I read R. L. Stein's Fear Street books instead of Nancy Drew/ I just love old books (and movies lol) now but when I was a kid, I usually just read paperbacks or anything I'd stumble across and think was interesting. I eventually discovered the classics section at the library and started reading The Secret Garden, White Fang, etc but I still haven't read a Nancy Drew though!

    Paxton: Thank you! Why do I have the feeling I'm going to end up reading all of her books? Lol. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

    Dewey: Oh bedrest does not sound like fun but I'm glad you got to read so many good books!

    Darla D: Thanks! I'll have to see about adding that one to my TBR pile too.

  9. I have never read any Agatha mother has a huge collection of her books, and it really sounds like I should borrow some! Sometimes I forget how satisfying a good mystery is.

  10. Naida: I'm beginning to think she doesn't write bad books at all!

    Nymeth: I had heard of her books forever but if it wasn't for one of my online groups choosing Murder on the Orient Express (then a month or so later another one choose this book) then I wouldn't have either. I'm so glad I did read these though! They're incredibly good.

  11. I read a lot of Agatha Christie when I was a teenager. I wish I kept a list of which ones I'd read because I don't remember anymore!

  12. I've never read any Agatha Christie! I think I'd like *Murder on the Orient Express*, based on your hint at a twist!

  13. Anna: Oh I wish I had a list of all of the books I had read when I was younger! There are so many that I remember enjoying but I can't remember the titles and not enough of the plot to do a search :(

    Dawn: It starts off really slow (I almost didn't finish it) but then it just takes off! MOTOE was a great story with a literally, jaw-dropping ending.

  14. I keep meaning to tell you that I really like the new look, Jen.

    I really enjoy Agatha Christie's writing. I read her quite faithfully when I was in high school but got away from her mysteries. I keep meaning to return to them. She had such a gift for mystery writing.

  15. Wendy: Thank you! I had heard of her forever but I had never even thought to read anything until my book group decided on one of her books (and another decided on this one). Since I liked them both so much, I'm now more than willing to try out something else by her!



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