“…I determined to commit not one murder, but murder on a grand scale…”
Well, there we go – the explanation of the whole thing. I thought it very neatly tied the whole thing together. I remember the first time I read the first page or so of this letter – especially since Wargrave’s name doesn’t appear till the last page – thinking, “Hang on . . . this sounds like Wargrave. But he’s dead, isn’t it?”
Once I’d got that settled in my head that maybe he wasn’t, then the whole explanation made sense. Part of the fun of this denouement is just the grand style in which Wargrave unveils his plot. (A grand unraveling is usually a trademark of Agatha Christie’s book, but normally it’s done by this detective. Here we have it unveiled by the murdered.)
I haven’t watched it yet (but it’s on my shelf ready to go), but I understand that Agatha Christie’s stage adaptation of this novel, and subsequent film versions have a slightly different ending. (I’m not sure, but I think it goes something like Vera shoots Lombard, walks back in the house, Wargrave comes out, and then in another twist Lombard shows up to her rescue, because they’d planned together that he should pretend to be dead.) While this allows for a nice ending, for me, the true effect needs to be the chilling realisation that the Judge killed everyone and then killed himself. A far more effective ending, and certainly the one I’d use if I was making a film of it today.
So there you have it – And Then There Were None. I still think it’s the original and best of these type of stories.
We’ve mentioned some of the spin-offs from this story. Obviously, any story where there’s a bunch of people being picked off one by one owes a debt to this story.
Harper’s Island, the recent TV series, mercilessly ripped off the concept, only to stuff it up horrendously. Identity (which Dave worried was the same twist) clearly owes a debt to this story. If you haven’t seen it, and you have the stomach for it, Identity is a very clever usage of the idea of 10 people being killed off one at a time, but with a logic of its own, and a completely different ending.
In terms of the killer, there’s a certain similarity between Wargrave and Jigsaw, the killer from Saw (which you need to have even more of a stomach for). Jigsaw (also suffering from a terminal illness) takes it upon himself to harass people who he doesn’t consider worth living. That’s a completely different premise, and quite a bit nastier, but the writers (at least of the original film) had the same sense of cleverness about it all.
Well, hopefully, none of you felt cheated by the ending (my apologies if you did). This was fun enough that I might do another Agatha Christie at some stage down the track. I’ll see how it goes. Thanks to all who participated (either commenting or uncommenting) – especially those who showed the remarkable restraint of being able to read the book over three weeks instead of all in one go…