And then there were none by Agatha Christie
Published: May 3rd 2004 by St. Martin’s Press (first published November 6th 1939
Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Thriller, Classics
First edition cover
Ten little niggers, ten little indians, ten little soldiers, ten little teddy bears. The rhyme, the song, the play, the book. It is so famous and so integrated in history and pop culture that it is near impossible to not come across in some way, either herited, inspired by or mentioned.
To me, it is the greatest mystery novel ever written, albeit, a little “boring” to read because of the old language of it, but genius nonetheless.
Christie pulls out all the stops on this one and everything comes so perfectly full circle it is hard to keep from clapping.
You may know the story, ten people arrive on soldier (nigger or indian, depending on which version you are reading) Island by special invitation. These are ten different people from different backgrounds who do not know each other prior to arriving on the island. In all of their rooms hang the rhyme “Ten little soldiers” and not before long, they start dropping, one by one.
Ten little soldiers went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little soldiers sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little soldiers travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little soldiers chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little soldiers playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one of them and then there were five.
Five little soldiers going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little soldiers going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little soldiers walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little soldiers sitting in the sun;
One got all frizzled up and then there was one.
One little soldiers left all alone;
He went and hanged himself and then there were none.
Christie plays on their vulnerabilities, and as it turns out, they all have them, and they are all guilty of something. In a sense, counting down the characters as they die, is also a countdown of innocent ones, and in the end, there are no innocent persons on the island, as they are all guilty of something.
The way it kills off characters behind the scene, like we’re familiar with in this day an age slasher movies, it also plays so mysterious, it touches on the supernatural. It begins to feel that way to the guests as it is apparent that there must be a murderer amongst them, but at the same time, that seems impossible. Christie so beautifully throws suspicion on everyone that you start thinking its a ghost yourself.
I’m not going to spoil the ending, but the way it is wrapped up, and how the story comes full circle really does it for me. It’s the ultimate ending. I have never in my life read an ending and liked it as much as I liked this one.
I remember reading it in middle school and not really getting it (but the mere fact that I remember reading it and the story itself says a lot!), reading it again made all the difference.
If the mystery/thriller is your genre, you can’t really call yourself a mystery buff unless you’ve read Christie. She’s the ultimate mystery writer.