And we’re off! If you’ve never read a Christie before, she’s remarkably economical with her characterisations and words. In any of her novels, her characters exist for one purpose only – to be potential suspects. (Either that, or they’re the detective.)

So, one by one, we start meeting the ten suspects who will populate And Then There Were None. Let’s meet our line up, shall we?

1. Mr Justice Wargrave. A retired judge, it is he who provides us the background details on Indian Island. So all at once, the scene is set – the details are vague on this island. Nobody quite knows who owns it. But Mr Wargrave is carrying a letter from a Constance Culmington, who has invited him. All of this is mild background details, until we meet …

2. Vera Claythorne. Young, formerly a nanny – on the way to the same island for a nanny job. We quickly realise that she has no idea that a judge (or anyone else for that matter) is on their way to the island as well . . . the suspense grows. Note also the slight guilt over an incident with someone named Hugo. What’s the background there?

3. Philip Lombard (a Captain – army, perhaps). Here, in an example of the racial stereotypes that have (slightly) marred the reputation of this book, Lombard gets his orders to go to the island from a “little Jew”, Isaac Morris. Hopefully you can look past the descriptions of “thick Semitic lips” to start to wonder about what Lombard is being hired for . . .

4. Miss Emily Brent. Oddly enough, in ensemble-cast slasher films nowadays, stiff old women rarely feature – but they’re usually a regular appearance in Agatha Christie novels. It says something about this woman, that even though she’s not entirely sure who wrote the letter to her – the invitation was attractive enough to get her along.

5. General Macarthur. The old military general – again, the type of character that you see used a lot in Christie’s world. Note also, the hint of something having gone on 30 years ago . . . I love the layering of a good mystery. . . . everyone has a secret to hide – every hint of something going on is an avenue to be explore. And all of it will be paid off in the end . . .

6. Dr Armstrong. I don’t even think he has a first name. He’s just a doctor – like the General and Vera Claythorne, a scandal in the past. By now, our interest is piqued just to see what was the story that was spun for each individual to bring them to the island . . .

7. Tony Marston And Tony – he who drives a fast car and likes to hob nob with the rich and famous . . . What is his back story?

8. Mr Blore Finally, we meet the mysterious Mr Blore, who is not what he appears – and, most importantly, appears to be the only one of our cast so far who knows who everyone else is . . . He also dropped the names of our final two, Mr and Mrs Rogers, whom we will meet very shortly.

There you have it – the cast is almost assembled. Who would you pick as a killer out of that line-up? See you tomorrow for Chapter Two!

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6 thoughts on “And Then There Were None – Chapter 1 (0 Dead; 10 Alive)

  1. I have my suspicions, but I don’t think we have enough detail yet. And do we get any commentary on the poem? Mine was about soldiers.

  2. Yes, the ‘Jew’ thing threw me a little. I thought maybe it might be a relevant piece of characterisation. But maybe not?

    I have no idea who the murderer might be. But if I could be expected to guess after Chapter One, we probably wouldn’t be making a big deal out of reading it, would we?

  3. It was quite an unfair question anyway – in Agatha Christie’s world, everyone – apart from the detective – is a suspect. And there’s no detective in this novel, so that leaves everyone.

    As background to the poem, all I was able to discover was that it was written in 1869, obviously using the word “niggers” rather than “soldiers” or “Indians” and was a music-hall tune.

    Agatha liked the bloodthirsty nature of the whole thing and borrowed it. She also did write several of her books themed around nursery rhymes (e.g. “Five Little Pigs” “Hickory Dickory Dock” “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe”, etc. She found it often gave an interesting framing idea for the plot.

    It works rather well in this one … see you for Chapter 2.

  4. Matt.

    Is there any chance the chapter breaks have changed over time too. I only ask because the nursery rhyme was in Chapter Two (which I just finished) in my copy. Is that the same as yours (and/or Dave’s)?

    Also, I haven’t paid too much attention to exact numbers, but we have been inside a large number of character’s heads already. Presumably, if Agatha Christie is playing fair, she won’t put us inside the murderer’s head without letting us see murderous thoughts. Would she? (you don’t have to answer that). Does make me wonder though if the murderer actually knows he/she is the murderer.

  5. Two questions:

    1. Someone at work is reading this book along with us, and I had a look at her copy and it had the poem printed as a bit of a prologue before the 1st chapter. (Bit like the ring poem in Lord of the Rings). So that’s probably why Dave read it.

    2. With regards to getting inside character’s heads – that’s a good question. As a general rule, she will often let you inside character’s heads, but she may not give you *everything* that is going on in their heads. I’m not talking about this novel in particular, but there are several others of hers where’s she done this.

    In fact, in many of her books, there will be several characters with murderous thoughts. For instance, Evil Under the Sun tells the tale of a bunch of people accompanying a grotty old matriarch on a trip around the Middle East. It becomes very apparent that most of them hate her and would like to kill her. The question then becomes – who is it?

    All I’ll say is that she nearly always plays fair, but she very rarely makes it easy to guess. Granted, I’m a bit thick at guessing mysteries, but I’ve read about 65 or so of her books over the years, and I could count on the fingers of one hand the ones where I guessed who the killer was before the end.

    Her characters are atrociously 2D, her detectives are caricatures, and the atmosphere is often light and breezy, but when it came to plots, she had a mind like a steel trap. Which you shall discover for yourself.

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