Saturday, June 12, 2010

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  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 all 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.

And this is what I thought:  I went through an Agatha Christie phase when I was about 13, but I hadn't read any of her books for a long time --- and I had remembered really liking this one.  It was also one of the books we read in class when I was a freshman in high school, so I thought it might be fun to re-read it (and it met a requirement for one of my reading challenges, too).   The book was first published in 1939, and although the story remains pretty fresh, reading it now made it seem a little dated, in parts.   The premise of it is pretty simple:  10 different people are invited to Indian Island (all of them being invited by someone they think they know) and once they get there, they are accused of crimes....and then picked off, one by one.   This, of course, ramps up the suspense in the book, and it's hard to tell who's going to be killed next, and who might be the murderer.

It was interesting to re-read this story.  For some reason, I had remembered the house on Indian Island as being old, but in the book, it's described as being very modern, with a lot of big windows looking out to the sea.  Once I had that firmly in my head, imagining the characters was easy again.  They are a disparate bunch: a retired judge, an ex-governess, a spinster, a doctor, etc.  None of them have anything in common, except that they are stranded on this island with each other.  Christie does a nice job of rounding out her characters, although reading it now, some of them seem a little quaint.   I think the best way to read this book is to think of it like watching an old black and white movie (and actually, it was made into a movie) --- it's a little dated, but a good story.  Christie is pretty inventive in the way the characters get murdered one by one, by inserting into the story the old nursery rhyme about Ten Little Indians, and then following that through ("Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;One choked his little self and then there were nine.", etc).   It's very clever, and keeps you guessing as to which character might be next.   And it's tricky to guess who the murderer is (which Christie did in a lot of her books).  There are a lot of twists and turns in this story, and if you've never read Agatha Christie, I think this is the best book to start with.  It was interesting to re-read this; I had remembered who the murderer was, and a few other details, but it was interesting to read it again and fill in some of the other details I had forgotten.

Please note: This book has also been published under the name Ten Little Indians, although the original title was Ten Little N__________ (this is a word I believe all of us find completely offensive, and I absolutely will not put it here).   It should be noted that although the original title was changed, that when the book was published, this would have been seen as acceptable to British publishers.  So, before you get offended, please keep in mind the context of the social mores in 1939.   Hard to believe, I know.   There's a good Wikipedia article about this book, if you're interested. 

This book fulfilled part of my Flashback Challenge, meeting the requirement of a book assigned in high school. 


Christina T said...

Great review! This is one of my favorite Agatha Christie books. I first read it in high school but I should reread it again sometime too.

Kerrie said...

Jo - would you like to submit this post for the next edition if the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival? Submit here.

Jen said...

Never participated in a carnival before --- sounds like fun! I'll visit your link. :)

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