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And Then There Were None Mass Market Paperback – March 29, 2011
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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“The whole thing is utterly impossible and utterly fascinating. It is the most baffling mystery Agatha Christie has ever written.” (New York Times)
“One of the most ingenious thrillers in many a day.” (Time magazine)
“One of the very best, most genuinely bewildering Christies.” (The Observer (UK))
“There is no cheating; the reader is just bamboozled in a straightforward way from first to last….The most colossal achievement of a colossal career. The book must rank with Mrs. Christie’s previous best—on the top notch of detection.” (New Statesman (UK))
“The most astonishingly impudent, ingenious and altogether successful mystery story since The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.” (Daily Herald (UK))
“What Agatha Christie taught me was all about the delicate placement of the red herring. She was the ultimate genius behind ‘by indirections shall we find directions out.’ ” (Elizabeth George, New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Lynley novels)
From the Back Cover
One of the most famous and beloved mysteries from The Queen of Suspense—Agatha Christie—now a Lifetime TV movie.
"Ten . . ."
Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious "U. N. Owen."
"Nine . . ."
At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead.
"Eight . . ."
Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one . . . as one by one . . . they begin to die.
"Seven . . ."
Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?
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One of my favorite bits about this well-written whodunnit? The Vera/Philip relationship. Two, young guests on Soldier Island who clearly have some attraction to one another. Christie sets up little hints until she turns it on its head and reminds both characters, "Oh yeah, either one of you could be a megalomaniacal murderer." Screw romance. Romance is dead. Christie is dedicated in this book to just making some macabre fun.
This is one of the great who-dunnit's, as there is so much misdirection on who the murderer could be and who it ends up being. Great work of mystery.
The plot is fiendishly simple. Eight people are invited to remote Soldier Island for a party. Waiting for them are a maid and butler, who inform the guests that their mysterious hosts will be arriving shortly. In the mean time, each person is handed a copy of the infamously gruesome little poem "Ten Little Indians.*" While waiting, one of the guests plays a gramophone, but instead of music the recorded voice announces that each member of the party -- including the maid and butler -- have committed, and gotten away with, some terrible crime, and that punishment is now at hand. The guests believe it's all just some macabre practical joke...until the first one of them dies. And when they realize that there is no way to communicate with the mainland, no way off the island until the scheduled boat arrives days later...panic begins to set in...and paranoia. Are they trapped on the island with a murderer hiding in the shadows...or is the murderer hiding in plain sight among them? Either way, the bodies are piling up fast, and for the dwindling number of survivors, the "anticipation of a terrifying outcome" grows both more unbearable and more certain with each passing moment. There is, it seems, no way to outrun your sins on Soldier Island...
AND THEN THERE WERE NONE is a startlingly good book. Christie uses clever writing technique to introduce a very large cast of characters quickly, and also establish just the vaguest trace of menace from the very first pages; also to create numerous "red herrings" and to misdirect the reader at every possible turn as to the killer's identity. Despite a shortish length and a lightning pace, the characters -- Lawrence Wargrave, Vera Claythorne, Philip Lombard, General John Macarthur, Emily Brent, Anthony Marston, Dr Edward Armstrong and William Blore, and Thomas and Ethel Rogers -- are finely drawn and, in some cases, decidedly sympathetic because they actually regret their sins, which of course only makes the horror-suspense element of the novel all the more effective. The killer partially agrees, arranging the earliest deaths for those who are the least villainous, and the final ones for those who deserve to suffer agonies of suspense as they wait minute by minute for their own end to come.
No book is perfect, and the main flaw here is the last part of the novel, which consists of a large set-up to letting the killer explain their motives. The set-up is quite unnecessary and overly expositive and a single sentence introducing the actual confession, such as "The following was recovered in a bottle which washed up on a beach in East Anglia" would have sufficed. I feel Christie went a bit too far "behind the curtain" here, but the flaw is relatively minor.
AND THEN THERE WERE NONE was my first Agatha Christie book, but it won't be my last. Minor flaws aside, it's a terrific little novel that not only needs to be read, it needs to be read twice!
(* When the book was originally published, the poem was actually called "Ten Little N*****s"...as was the book. Then it became TEN LITTLE INDIANS. When that too became politically unacceptable, the name was changed once more to AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. Hopefully this is the last change...but you never know.)