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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – Think You Know Whodunnit? Wrong!

September 24, 2011
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Considered the best mystery novel ever written by many readers, And Then There Were None is the story of 10 strangers, each lured to Indian Island by a mysterious host. Once his guests have arrived, the host accuses each person of murder. Unable to leave the island, the guests begin to share their darkest secrets–until they begin to die.

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Taken at face value, And Then There Were None may as well have been the basis of the 1985 movie Clue. Of course, as funny that movie was, this novel was anything but.

But the premise is very similar. Strangers made to come together in a remote place by an invitation from an anonymous sender. However this is where the two works of fiction diverge. The movie Clue revolves around a plot with characters who have received the same letter/invitation (as in verbatim). In And Then There Were None however, each letter is eerily suited to a particular person. Some were enticed by the prospect of a good time or the promise of meeting old acquaintances (as what they have been wanting to do or have), others were lured by financial opportunities (as was their pressing need); whilst others still had vague motivations for coming.

The author is unrelenting in building the suspense – from the first bits in the train/carriage ride bearing the arriving guests – up to the climax. Snatches of thoughts from each character make it helpful for the reader (to a certain extent) to pin down which is which. There’s the judge who can lie still as a stone but whose pale eyes are razor sharp, always taking everything in. The self-righteous and religious fanatic middle-aged woman whose demeanor is rarely ruffled. The younger female who looks sensible but whose thoughts are haunted and chaotic. The general whose disdain for the brash, younger generation is hard to miss. The doctor whose seeming contentment with his career is nevertheless shadowed by a past controversy. And then others more whose presence in Indian Island certainly make the group a strange mix of persons.

The first solid chilling clue is the presence of the Ten Little Indian Boys rhyme set in each of the guest’s bedroom. (I had to write it all down as a guide…No, really. It’s a requirement)

The guests themselves have barely been reluctant acquaintances upon arrival when a strange, disembodied voice blasts over the whole drawing room where they have all retired after dinner. And then the chills creep in all over again.

Each of those present is accused of murder.

Well then of course one just has to read on. Because that’s the beauty of Agatha Christie novels. It’s all up-front murder but the mastery lies in her exposition. Who and how was it all done?

I again thought that it might be the same as Clue, in which the presence of deadly weapons is a silent command that all characters finish each other off.

But no. In this novel, the characters have no reason to kill each other. And yet all of them, because of those accusations, deserve to die.

And if this is not your first Agatha Christie, then I guess my saying that it’s useless to make any guesses is understandable.

Just sit back and let the narrative do the work for you.

And if you still find yourself guessing every so often, I can’t blame you. And that’s why I’m loving this author.

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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