Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Reviewed by Kamryn Kronschnabel, Patron Services Librarian
Countdowns have arguably become a cliché in books and media to create suspense, but this countdown mystery kept me on the edge of my seat.
In Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, ten strangers are invited to an island by a mysterious host with just enough social connection to them that they come without asking too many questions. Once dropped off by a ferry and isolated, things quickly turn sinister when an accusatory recording plays and lists crimes perpetrated by the ten of them. Soon after, they begin to die… and when they establish there’s nobody else on the island, they turn suspicious of one another as they work together and as the body count rises.
For me, the real thrill in this book was not actually in finding out who the murderer was. The reveal of the murderer, the motives, and the methodical execution of the plan felt more blasé than the rest of the book: while Scotland Yard takes over the case and has a mystery on their hands to examine, the reader immediately learns what happens and (if the reader is like me) feels rather unsatisfied that it’s explained in a confessional letter a la Bond villain monologue. To Christie’s credit, with the set-up of choice (both from the murderer’s and a writer’s perspective), this is probably the most direct way to give the reader all the answers to the mystery, and it would have been absurd to not include a final reveal at all.
No, the true morbid appeal of this book lies in the order and the method of the characters’ deaths. With the first two deaths, it becomes apparent that the characters die in the order of and via similar methods to a poem hung on the walls of each of their rooms. I found myself guessing, as more bodies kept piling up, both which character was next and how the victim would die. The additional layer of mystery has to do with the deeds of the victims from the recording I previously mentioned – perhaps “victim” is a misnomer, as the murderer seems to think that each of the characters are guilty of killing at least one person earlier in life. Whether it was a death through accident, negligence, mercilessness, or (in at least one case) actual premeditated murder, everyone is guilty of something, and their characterization surrounding that something is a delightful and sick allure to readers.
With nobody truly innocent on the island, the countdown in And Then There Were None kept me mesmerized. Check it out for yourself at the Charles City Public Library.