Friday, January 30, 2015

Classic Fiction: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Often when I go over a work that can be classified as a classic I tend to relax and have less anxiety when I first start to read it because the book has already withstood the test of time and there is less cause for me to wander if it will be any good. Granted, that doesn't mean that every classic I have picked up I ended up liking. In fact, there are quite a few that I have been pretty disappointed with, but I had a very good feeling about Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, which was also published under the title Ten Little Indians.

The Situation: Ten people have been invited to Soldier Island, all for various reasons, and they all accepted. Dr. Armstrong, Emily Brent, William Blore, Vera Claythorne, Philip Lombard, General Macarthur, Anthony Marsten, Thomas and Ethel Rogers, and Justice Wargrave all arrive at the island, not knowing anyone else among the other nine visitors, with the exception of course being Thomas and Ethel Rogers, a husband and wife pair who were hired as the servants for the host and their guests. But once everyone begins to get to know one another, it becomes clear that they were all summoned by different means and by different people. And their gracious host has yet to make an appearance.

The Problem: After the guests had finished their dinner, a resounding voice announces the real reason they are all there. Apparently all ten people, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers included, have played a major part in some sort of grave injustice that someone believes they should be held accountable for. And after nearly everyone has explained themselves and their situation, the guests begin to die off, one by one. This quite naturally leads some of the guests to search both the house and the island in an attempt to flush out the murderer and his hiding place. But once it is quite clear that there is no one else on the island aside from the original ten, then the only conclusion that can be reached is that one of them is the murderer. 

Genre, Themes, History: This is a classic and fairly well-known mystery and suspense novel from the great Agatha Christie, originally published in 1939. It is one of those books I have always known about but never quite got around to reading until now. The other title, Ten Little Indians, comes from a nursery rhyme the guests find posted inside of the house that tells the story of ten little Indians that all have some curious event happen to them until there are none. The rhyme comes from a song written in 1869, which was an adaptation of another song written by Septimus Winner in 1868. Each one of the "little Indians" in the song dies or disappears in a certain way, and it seems pretty clear after only the first death that the murderer intends to follow the rhyme pretty closely when it comes to the death of the guests. And while some of the guests do feel guilt over the crimes they have been accused of, others do not, and still others do not feel like they have committed any crime at all and the situations were simply unfortunate accidents. Apparently, their accuser doesn't seem to care how they feel about their crimes, and if they don't get off the island then they are all doomed.

My Verdict: Pulling off the murder of ten different people in such a complex and interesting way would be a task for any writer, but Christie manages to pull it off, and all under 300 pages. This book is an incredibly quick read and very easy to follow, despite there being ten suspects to follow around in the beginning, although that number does begin to dwindle quickly. There are, of course, certain points that pulled away from the realm of believability. I mean, I have a hard time believing that anyone could really pull off something like this and not be caught, but Christie creates a murderer who is a master of planning and patience, and one who also knows about people and how they react. If you enjoy murder mysteries, especially the kind that aren't just gore-fests, but still sufficiently creepy and scary, then this book is definitely for you.

Favorite Moment: It is hard to pick one favorite moment as I was basically just waiting for the next body to turn up because I was so interested in how the murderer was pulling all of this off. The whole book is a disturbing but wild ride.

Favorite Character: I think Dr. Armstrong ended up being my favorite character. He was the most helpful, as well as one that was able to remain calm despite all of the killing that kept happening around him. Of all ten of the guests, he was the one I was pulling for the most. 

Recommended Reading: Unfortunately this is the only Christie book I have ever read, and I am not that big into mystery novels, so coming up with a recommendation has proven difficult. So I'll recommend Night Film by Marisha Pessl. It is also a murder mystery, but it is much longer and much darker, and slightly more complicated.

No comments: