Title: And Then There Were None
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication date: 2007
Eight strangers are invited to an isolated mansion on Soldier Island off the Devon coast by the mysterious Mr and Mrs Owen. As it turns out, everyone is talking about Soldier Island and its owners but no one knows who it actually belongs to. Despite the fact that they don’t know the hosts, they all accept the invitation. They don’t know each other and all they have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. Upon arriving, the guests get to know the butler, Mr Rogers, and his wife. They are told that the hosts are currently away but will be back in a few days and until that it’s only the ten of them on Soldier Island. Over dinner, a gramophone record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night, one of the guests is dead. Having carried out a thorough search of the island, the 9 remaining people come to a conclusion: there is no one else on the island except for the 9 of them, one of whom is a murderer, who is ready to strike again. And again. Which of them is the killer and will any of them survive?
This book left me in a complete awe. It’s the best book I’ve read so far, and I’m not exaggerating here. Even if you’re not keen on mysteries, it’s a definite must.
It was one of the first Agatha Christie books I’ve read and I picked it up several times ever since. What made me want to read it in the first place – apart from the fact that my mum is a huge Agatha Christie fan and she told me how brilliant it was – is the fact that the characters are stuck on an island. I like mysteries (and films) where you know that the characters have absolutely no chance to escape. Where they are locked up – or in this case, stuck – in the same house and you know that there’s no way out or in, that is, the murderer must be amongst them. And one by one, they begin to die.
I wouldn’t like to give too much away but apart from this, I really liked how the whole story was built upon an old nursery rhyme. Each guest has a nursery rhyme on their bedroom walls, which runs like this:
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.
The murderer tries to stick to this rhyme as closely as possible – but to make it even more interesting, there are 10 little soldier figures on the dining table. As soon as the first victim dies, however, there are only 9 soliders left on the table. And as one by one they start to die, the china figures start to disappear too. I loved the fact that even though the rhyme gives us readers (and the characters) a clue about how the next person is going to die, they are still completely helpless and can’t fight their fate.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve read any of her books before, Agatha Christie’s masterpiece will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way. Perfectly constructed and built completely on suspense, And Then There Were None is an outstanding work by the Queen of Crime – the best in this genre, without a doubt.