And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

I hope you have all had a marvellous Christmas? I certainly have so far. Those of you who have been kind enough to pop by over the last seven years will know that today, Boxing Day, is my very favourite day of the festive season. I love it because the stress of Christmas is gone, you generally end up seeing another set of family and so have all the grub and present delight but it is more of a slobbing day where you can wear your pyjamas for 70% of it and read, catch up on some telly or both. I am actually making the following two days additional Boxing Day’s I love it so much. Where does this link in with Agatha Christie? Well, it is the perfect day to read a classic crime and invariably there is one on the telly, tonight being the night a whole new adaptation of And Then There Were None starts, so I thought I’d better read the book before I watched it.

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Harper Collins, 1939 (2011 USA edition), paperback, fiction, 247 pages, bought by myself for myself

Soldier Island! Why, there had been nothing else in the papers lately! All sorts of hints and interesting rumours. Though probably they were mostly untrue. But the house had certainly been built by a millionaire and was said to be absolutely the last word in luxury.

When eight strangers are separately invited to spend a weekend on Satin Island, they find their host missing with only the staff, Mr and Mrs Rogers, left to attend to them. After having settled in and having a pre-dinner drink they are all shocked to hear a message from an unknown voice telling them all of their complicity in various deaths. No sooner have they taken in the shock, one of their group suddenly dies and the poem ‘And Then There Were None’ hanging in their rooms along with the ten figurines in the dining room start to take on an even more sinister twist. Who is it who wants revenge on this party and why? More importantly with a murderer in their mist, who seems to be one of their own, will anyone survive?

From the very start of And Then There Were None I was hooked. As we travel with each member of the party by train, car and boat the tension is instantly racked up by the fact that we know from the off that they are being lied to. There’s also a wicked streak to it where  we know that doom is around the corner and the characters don’t, so we are ahead of them as the apprehension, tension and fear slowly dawns on the hapless guests and suspicions begins to mount. 

Mrs. Rogers had a flat monotonous voice. Vera looked at her curiously. What a white bloodless ghost of a woman! Very respectable-looking, with her hair dragged back from her face and her black dress. Queer light eyes that shifted the whole time from place to place.
Vera thought:
“She looks frightened of her own shadow.”
Yes, that was it – frightened!
She looked like a woman who walked in mortal fear.
A little shiver passed down Vera’s back. What on earth was the woman afraid of?

For me this novel is Agatha Christie at the most gothic and sinister that I have read her so far. She is also at her sharpest in terms of plotting. As I read on I had no idea who the victim might be (though thanks to the nursery rhyme I had the ability to guess how they might be bumped off) and certainly had no clue as to who the murderer was and if they were one of the group or not which is brilliantly puzzling. It seems impossible the more it goes on and then at the end I marvelled at Christie’s cleverness rather than feeling miffed I didn’t cotton on. Something only the best crime writers can achieve, especially as it does make sense (and there are some very clever clues left) by the end. She’s a genius.

It would be amiss of me not to mention this book without the history of the title which I think has somewhat unfairly labelled it as being a classic that is racist. Here me out… Firstly, language and times have changed thank goodness and the original title isn’t acceptable anymore, rightly so. I admit initially when one of the characters started saying some pretty anti-Semitic things I had a wobble until it clicked, Agatha Christie is pointing out how stupid and backward these attitudes and thoughts are. You are meant to flinch at the casual racism and sexism throughout.

“Ah, I understand you now. Well, there is that Mr. Lombard. He admits to having abandoned twenty men to their deaths.”
Vera said: “They were only natives…”
Emily Brent said sharply: “Black or white, they are our brothers.”
Vera thought: “Our black brothers – our black brothers. Oh, I’m going to laugh. I’m hysterical. I’m not myself…”

I actually think characters prejudices are all part of the plot, they certainly add to the flaws of all the characters and their unreliable nature. You might think ‘good on Emily Brent’  (above) one minute, before she launches a tirade about single mothers and women having children out of wedlock. None of these characters a lacking in prejudice, often it is this that has lead someone to the island and to their deaths. Christie is using a page turning novel to make a point and possibly educate a few people along the way about the ridiculous nature of some views, she does it without bashing them over the head (well, with the exception of some of the fates of her characters – is this symbolic?) or taking a moral high ground which turns any reader off frankly. We don’t want to be preached to and Agatha doesn’t, she just makes a point, with murder.

So there you have it, I can completely understand why And Then There Were None has gone on to become not only Agatha Christie’s best selling novel, but one of the bestselling thrillers/crime novels of all time. It certainly ties with Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (which is totally different but if you haven’t read you simply must) as my favourite of Christie’s novel and shows what an incredible master of plot she was. Highly recommended, if you aren’t one of the 100+ million people who have already read it!

18 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Books of 2015, Harper Collins, Review

18 responses to “And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

  1. I love Agatha Christie, but haven’t read this one yet. After reading this post I put a copy of And Then There Were None and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? on my library “want to read” list.

  2. David

    I’ve never read Agatha Christie (mainly due to not much liking Poirot/Miss Marple on the telly, though I sort of enjoyed ‘Partners in Crime’ in a so-bad-it’s-good way) but you’ve almost convinced me to give her a go with this.

    Also, can I have your Boxing day, please? Due to a pressing Jan 4th deadline I worked half of Christmas Day and today was back to normal working hours.

  3. Yes! I loved this book so much and have actually read it more than once….still able to give me chills even on the reread. This book is the reason why I have a perpetual goal to read everything that Christie has written- because she is just such an amazing author! Great review!

  4. I too think Boxing Day (s) is/are the best. I have an elderly English friend who always reads the last chapter of A C. first bc she enjoys knowing who the murderer is and then she looks at the structure of clues as she goes. She likes to see the unwinding of the story. I laughed when she told me this.

  5. Ann

    I love Agatha Cristie’s books. Mysteries are right up my alley – love them!

  6. I think your point about Boxing Day is excellent, and in fact that is how we’ve spent the day (apart from my Dad who went to a clay pigeon shoot and came home well in his cups – thank goodness he wasn’t shooting!) I have the book but thought I’d read it after watching the adaptation, as it might add more to it. The hour flew by and I’m looking forward to tomorrow night’s episode. I’ll also look out for “Evans”. I’ve got The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, which I know is a firm favourite with many. As for the racism etc argument, I think you have to accept that people weren’t as forward thinking when it was written, and see it as of it’s time. Boxing Day Mark II tomorrow it is!

  7. The first episode was spectacularly menacing and I was glad that the one I wanted to be killed off first was but rather sad the character played by Anna MM was next because she’s an actor I love!

  8. Pingback: Savidge Reads’ Books of 2015 Part One… | Savidge Reads

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