Monday, June 21, 2010

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

275 pages
Published 1939 by G. P. Putnam's Sons
Reprinted 2001 by Penguin Putnam Inc.
St Martin's Paperbacks

And Then There Were None (also published as Ten Little Indians) is probably one of the most recognizable of Agatha Christie's mystery novels amongst readers. It has been called the best selling mystery novel of all times and is currently the 1oth best selling book of all times with 100 million copies (and counting) sold worldwide. It has been adapted into movies and plays and converted into video games. It is even said to have inspired the 2009 TV show Harper's Island.

And yet, I actually dreaded the moment when I would read this book. It is, in my opinion, the scariest and thus perhaps the best of all Agatha Christie's crime and mystery novels. But then, maybe I am prejudiced.

My first encounter with And Then There Were None was when I was a child of ten or eleven and I watched the 1945 film adaptation starring Barry Fitzgerald and Judith Anderson (to name just two of the many famliar faces you'll see). It was not a horror story. It was a B&W murder mystery film with a happier ending than the novel it was based on and yet I remember it being very scary. So scary that I had nightmares any time I watched it, which normally would mean I wouldn't watch the movie.... Yet I had this bizarre love-hate relationship with the story. I loved aspects of the movie and would watch it periodically over the years, but every time I did (even if I watched it in the middle of the day) the very next time I went to sleep I would be bothered with bad dreams.

So you can imagine why I had butterflies when I picked up a copy of this book from the library. Would reading it give me nightmares? I already knew the ending and that it would be worse than the 1945 movie so maybe reading the story wouldn't impact me in the same way watching the movie had? One thing was for certain, I needed to read And Then There Were None if I were to truly complete my personal Agatha Christie challenge (read all of her mystery novels by order of publication). And so, I was determined to slay this dragon once and for all.

The Plot:
"Ten people, each with something to hide and something to fear, are invited to a lonely mansion on Indian Island by a host who, surprisingly, fails to appear. On the island they are cut off from everything but each other and the inescapable shadows of their own past lives. One by one, the guests share the darkest secrets of their wicked pasts. And one by one, they start to die..." (Summary courtesy of

My Thoughts:
To answer your question, yes, I did have a very bad dream the night after I started reading the book. Mercifully it only took me 24 hours to finish this quick read so I only suffered loss of sleep for that one night. Looking back I still believe And Then There Were None is the deadliest, darkest, most intense read of Agatha Christie's mysteries. It is a thriller. It is a puzzling mystery. It is a very intruiging study of human psyche and the depraved and decieved mind (and heart). And it is also a commentary of sorts society's views on crime and punishment. And Then There Were None is excellently well written, the characters are colorful and the plot is well crafted. I'd like to think the mystery would have puzzled me to the end had I not already known the answer.

I asked a friend who had watched Harper's Island if he'd be interested in reading And Then There Were None. I wanted to know what it would be like for someone to read the book with fresh eyes. Would they be able to solve the mystery before the end? My friend had his suspicions, but in the end he admitted that he was left guessing until the last few pages when the mystery is revealed to the reader. Yet again proof that this is Agatha Christie at her best.

So it should follow that this is my favorite Christie novel of all times, right? Not so. Even though it has all the elements that make for a thrilling read and puzzling mystery I didn't like it because of it's lack of happy ending. There is no Hercule Poirot or Jane Marple to save the day. This was the best mystery I've read in a long time and worthy to be on any mystery lover's reading list. But at the same time I have no desire to read it again. Once was enough. I have slayed this dragon and I plan to let it lie.

Up next: Sad Cypress.

Other Agatha Christie Reviews:
*Novels published from 1920-1923 see note below.

The Man in the Brown Suit (1924)
The Secret of Chimneys (1925)
The Big Four (1927)

The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928)
The Seven Dials Mystery (1929)

The Murder at the Vicarage (1930)
The Sittaford Mystery (1931)
Peril at End House (1932)
Lord Edgware Dies (1933)
Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1934)
Three Act Tragedy (1935)
Death in the Clouds (1935)
The A.B.C. Murders (1936)
Murder in Mesopotamia
Cards on the Table (1936)
Dumb Witness (1937)
Death on the Nile (1937)
Appointment With Death (1938)
Hercule Poirot's Christmas (1938)
Murder Is Easy (1939)
And Then There Were None (1939)

Absent In the Spring by Mary Westmacott (a.k.a. Agatha Christie) (1944)

* Christie's novels written from 1920 (The Mysterious Affair at Styles) through 1923 (Murder on the Links) I read before I began this blog hence no reviews currently


Kerrie said...

Of course the alternative title was TEN LITTLE NIGGERS

Framed said...

I just read this book for the first time a few months ago without a clue about the storyline. I really enjoyed it and didn't even mind the lack of a happy ending. I haven't read any Hercule Poirot books yet but love Jane Marple.