And Then There Were None

This is a tribute to what I consider to be the greatest mystery, and maybe novel, ever written.  While there are many other great Agatha Christie novels (for me it’s all about the Hercule Poirot series) and plenty of other great mystery writers past and present, And Then There Were None is the one I just can’t resist re-reading.  Over. And over. I’ve probably read this novel more times than I’ve seen all Star Trek movies at this point. Yeah.

I don’t know what it is about mysteries (or horror) set in a large mansion. The isolation, the fixed amount of space the characters can move around and yet there’s a murderer in that same space; it all adds up to my kind of tension and story. Compared to the typical horror movie however, this novel doesn’t just focus on a single night or a stormy day. There is plenty of activity happening during the day; characters are enjoying drinks on the porch and walks on the beach, talking with and prying each other. There are calm interludes between deaths, and in those moments you can just imagine yourself participating in those same endeavors, even if you were one of those trapped on an island with a murderer with no escape.

Ten people have received invitations to the renewed property, whether it’s a chance of employment, relaxation, or to meet old friends. Each guest has their own room, and while each room is in a different style they all contain a poem called “Ten Little Indians”, describing how each one meets their end. After their first dinner they are enjoying drinks when a recording plays, accusing each of them of an action that resulted in a person’s death while escaping justice. And then one by one, each guest is found murdered just as described in the poem. As the body count rises so does the tension and the stresses of the remaining guests. They search the house and island over and over to no avail, and yet the murders still keep happening until only a few are left.

And here we come to both the culmination of the horror and catharsis of a mortal life: if you, the reader, were one of the few survivors near the end of this story, how would you react? In fear, panic? Or would you close your eyes, bow your head, and accept your fate? Or pick up that weapon, no matter how ill-fashioned it may be, and fight on your feet until something finally managed to take you down? It’s certainly a stressful situation to try to imagine yourself in, and I think there’s faults and strengths to all of the characters and how they ended up on the island.

The ending of the novel is quite ingenious. In fact Agatha Christie had to write an epilogue as the end was otherwise a true mystery. Did I like knowing what actually happening? Perhaps. It certainly raises questions and stirs thoughts in my mind for a possible sequel…