“One little soldier boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were None.”
Praised as the Queen of Mystery I was intrigued at how Agatha Christie wrote her books. Lately I had a thrill for mystery crimes and after doing a bit of research – and the help of a friend – I got to read And Then There Were None (previously published as Ten Little Niggers after the British blackface song but then renamed because of the massively racist meaning). This book was a light read overall with only 300 pages that I would have managed to read in one sitting was it not for my way too busy work life.
The story converges around ten main characters and a single nursery rhyme that is connected with all their fates. Ten seemingly unconnected ladies and gentlemen are summoned to Soldier Island, a small island near the coast of Devon – all under different pretences by a mysterious host. The host – respectively U. N. Owen – is nowhere to be found on the mansion topping the island. After the first dinner together a recorded message sounds through the house and accuses each of the assembled members of an unique and guilty secret. And at the end of the night, the first of them is dead.
Above mentioned nursery rhyme is displayed in every room of those ten personas, which is at first dismissed with one of the characters remembering the rhyme from childhood days. But very soon they all have to discover that someone is playing a lethal game with this song. Trapped by a powerful storm with no chance to leave for security they soon have to realize that the murderer is one of them – and that all those dark secrets might be the one thing connecting them all. Their own panic and resentful behaviour against each other works the remaining magic of the book.
The characters had a wide variety of classes and occupations considering the book takes place somewhere in the late 1930s – there are overall three women and 7 men. All from servants and sports mistresses to generals and judges. From the beginning there are diverse suspicions between all of the characters and even with the occurring murders not all of them start sticking together. Since the story was seen from all the characters point of views, it wasn’t easy to get enough insight or connect with them. Them being murdered didn’t shock me as much as the reveal of who the murder was in the end. Also it was somehow clear that there wouldn’t be just one death.
All in all I enjoyed this classic even though I had some problems with the writing style – especially when it came to speech – of Christie. I needed some chapters to get accustomed to that, but in the end it was delightful and entertaining. If you’re looking for a fast read with a surprising end you should definitely give it a try. Agatha Christie is definitely the Queen of Mystery and I hope to read another book of hers.