With Halloween fast approaching, it can be hard to find books to set the mood. My advice, when in doubt, choose a mystery book. And who better to read than the one and only Agatha Christie? “And Then There Were None” is an Agatha Christie classic featuring a closed mystery where anyone can be a suspect.
Christie was born in September 1890 in England. She grew up around stories and at age five she learned to read. She continued to write throughout her life, publishing a total of at least 68 books and numerous short stories. Some of its biggest sellers include “Murder on the Orient Express”, “Death on the Nile” and, of course, “And Then There Were None”.
Soldier Island, our setting, is known to the public as an island of mystery and wonder. Rumored to be occupied by celebrities and wealthy people, the average citizen doesn’t know what’s really going on inside the walls of the island’s sinister mansion. One summer day, 10 strangers are invited to gather on Soldier Island, all in different circumstances. They ignore the grim truth: the host plans to murder all the guests.
As the guests are murdered one by one, they wonder if the host even exists, making each of them a suspect.
Set on a fictional island off the coast of Devon, England, “And Then There Were None” is set in the 1930s. It exudes that old-world feel and captures the iconic dinner party trope where all the guests are killed in mysterious circumstances. It is written in the third person from the omniscient point of view, so readers have access to all the characters in the novel. It adds suspense and makes readers really question innocence.
Now, no spoilers. I will not reveal “whodunit” in this review. I’ll leave that to Ms. Christie.
We are introduced to 10 characters at the start of the novel, setting the stage for the story. The first is Judge Wargrave, a wise old judge. Then there’s Vera Claythorne, a young nanny, and Philip Lombard, who seems up to some sketchy business. There’s also Emily Brent, an elderly woman looking for a vacation home. There’s General MacArthur, a World War I veteran, and Dr. Armstrong, a practicing physician. Then there’s Tony Marston, a young man looking for a party, and Mr. Blore, who also seems to be aware of some suspicious business. Finally, there is Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, who are responsible for looking after the house.
The mystery itself is brilliantly constructed. Christie is not afraid of a twisted story that is continually full of surprises. It’s a closed mystery, so the “thriller” is not revealed until the end of the story. There is also no detective on the scene to help them solve the crime. The way Christie wrote this novel shows that everyone is simultaneously innocent and guilty. There are many times when this is perceived as impossible. How could they die? Everyone was in the room.
Where were they?
There are clues sprinkled throughout the book that don’t seem important until the very end. The reveal was satisfying and worth the wait. I also loved the setting, a creepy mansion on a remote island was so much fun to read. Especially in the fall, reading books with spooky settings helps me get into the Halloween spirit.
I have a few reviews for the book. At first, I felt like I was several steps ahead of the characters. This could have just been my personal reading experience, and possibly due to the fact that I have been exposed to this trope before.
When the characters put the pieces together, I realized that I already had this realization pages ago. However, I’m well aware that for a concept like this to work, the characters need to take their time to figure things out, especially in this case where there isn’t a skilled detective to help them figure it out. That being said, the characters themselves were a little hard to read at times. Yes, they took their time to solve the case, but some of them were very stubborn.
I would recommend this book to any mystery fan, especially people who love the “Clue” board game. It’s not just a story written by one of the most classic mystery writers, but the premise is the basis of many movies and books being written today. The dinner theme is so ingrained in our culture that it’s hard to imagine a world without it.
“And Then There Were None” is also self-contained, so it can be read without any prior knowledge of Christie’s books. It’s a great introduction to his writing style and a spooky read for the Halloween and fall seasons.