Ten strangers, apparently with very little in common, are invited to a mysterious mansion off the coast of Devon, England, by a mysterious couple who both share the initials U.N. Owen. Once they’re all on Soldier Island, away from the rest of civilisation, they enjoy a dinner together. After dinner, that’s when the fun begins. A gramophone record accuses all of the ten that they have skeletons in their closets. And that’s when they start being killed off… one by one.
And then there were nine
And Then There Were None is Agatha Christie’s most famous novel, even more famous than her Hercule Poirot series. It was published in the United Kingdom in 1939, and in the United States a few months later. While the UK version was originally named after a blackface song, the United States realized the problems in publishing a book with this title, hence it was named And Then There Were None after the last line in the song. However, some of the lines in the book still reference the original title, such as when Vera Claythorne reacts hysterically after Miss Emily Brent refers to “our black brothers” when talking about the natives Captain Lombard murdered in the past.
And then there were eight
I picked up a copy of And Then There Were None from my local library, after hearing about it in a random BookTube video, and thinking the plot sounded vaguely like a TV show called Harper’s Island that I loved back in high school. And love this book I did! And Then There Were None was an excellent quick read, which I only procrastinated reading because of the large number of characters in the book. However, once I got through the first part—which involves all ten of our characters making their way to Soldier Island in Sticklehaven, Devon—it was easy going, and I finished it in just a couple of days.
And then there were seven
The further you get into the book, the easier it is to recall the characters, as they’re all dying off, one by one. I had my guesses for who the killer would be, but none of them were correct. Seriously! I completely expected it to be Dr. Armstrong, because his death is in the part about the “red herring”, and I assumed his death was the red herring, and that he’d faked his death. This is just a testament to how well Agatha Christie’s writing is, that I was left right until the very last chapter to discover who the actual killer was. And surprised I was! With the killer’s manifesto, you discover how he committed each of the murders, and you’re left amazed at how well plotted it is. After my brief annoyance about how unlikely it was that the killer was who he was, my annoyance abated into an “Oh, yeah, that makes sense!”
And then there were six
To anyone overwhelmed by the idea of ten main characters, plus a slew of minor characters who appear here and there, don’t fret! Last year, one of the main reasons I disliked Into the Water by Paula Hawkins was because there were far too many characters! However, And Then There Were None does this far better, and I believe that’s because all of the ten characters are so uniquely different, and those who are too similar have the other killed off. For example, Tony Marston and Philip Lombard were essentially the same character until one of them gets the dramatic first death—one choked his little self and then there were nine. I found the same with elderly spinster (read: Back in my day bitch) Miss Emily Brent and housekeeper Mrs Rogers, until of them becomes the second victim.
And then there were five
Of course, the book had its problems. Some of the lines—like Emily Brent’s line about “our black brothers”—make no sense with the current politically correct edits. The original song has had three names throughout its history: the original title, Ten Little Indians, and now Ten Little Soldiers. This is not enough to ruin the story, but it is interesting to know the context behind the song before you read the story. But, beware, try and avoid any spoilers!
And then there were four
Speaking of spoilers, the revelation of the killer in his manifesto in the final chapter is the main part of And Then There Were None that can be considered a negative. On first read, the revelation of said killer feels like it’s out of nowhere. He’s one of the least likely candidates, other than sickly, fainting Mrs Rogers. However, on a brief skim or reread through the book, it makes complete sense. He’s the first character mentioned, he also has a nickname that references killing, and it’s true, you don’t hear the gunshot when he supposedly dies. After finishing the book, I found a Goodreads review where someone stated that this book is a less bloody, less convoluted pre-Saw. You know, the franchise with the blood and guts and popularisation of torture porn. That one. Well, I’d written out the actual killer of And Then There Were None for a reason that made no sense, because the Jigsaw Killer also has this: age. I still can’t believe it wasn’t Dr Armstrong.
And then there were three
Getting away from the spoilers, when it came to the final countdown of characters, I was still struggling to work out who the killer was. After my initial belief it had to be the butler (because it’s always the butler), and then Dr. Armstrong, and then basically every other killer than the actual, Christie confuses us by making us think the final “survivor” is actually the killer. But they’re not! Shocking? Perhaps not. But I haven’t read a lot of classic murder mysteries.
And then there were two
Perhaps I should be reading more of these. Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, you’re next on the list!
And then there was one
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is an excellent book, well plotted, with an ending that will surprise you. It’s not the butler, I promise! If you haven’t read any Agatha Christie before—like me, prior to this book—then I recommend you read this one. If you love murder mysteries, Agatha Christie, crime novels, classics, or are even just a fan of the amazing 2009 show that is Harper’s Island, then you should read this!
And then there were none