And Then There Were None – Chapter 9 (3 Dead; 7 Alive)

The General’s strange premonition in the previous chapter now comes true – he is dead.

Justice Wargrave now becomes the closest thing we’ve seen to a detective in this story. Piece by piece, in true Poirot fashion (including having all suspects in one room), we are walked through the murders – trying different theories – trying to make them fit.

Of course, it leaves us more in the dark than ever – but it really does cover most of the possibilities of what could have happened.

Unless of course, something completely different happened, in which case, Agatha Christie is leading us all up the garden path.

We’ll know in a week and a half…

And Then There Were None – Chapter 8 (2 Dead; 8 Alive)

This for me is probably the turning point chapter. Once the Island is explored, we, as readers, get an answer to the question we’ve all been wondering – is there anyone else on this Island? (This was the fatal mistake that Harper’s Island made – it had an island so big, there could have been hundreds of killers hiding in the woods.)

While, in real life, the characters may not have scaled halfway down a cliff-face or wandered around a house with a tape measure, this is typical Agatha Christie’s way of recognising that you readers are armchair detectives.

There was a particular genre of mystery at the time known as “locked room” mysteries, where somebody would be murdered in a closed space that only certain people could get in or out of. The limited space required the murderers to be clever and limited everything to a fair number of suspects.

Well, now we have the dimensions of our locked room. For anyone thinking, “There could be a secret compartment somewhere”, we now know there isn’t a secret compartment. For those thinking, “The murderer could be hiding in a cave,” there isn’t a cave.

There’s no one else on this island except for the eight characters remaining, and – as the final scene in the Rogers’ room reminds us – two corpses.

I also liked the characterisation of the General – while he’s really gone mad, he’s actually clearly seen what’s going to happen to everyone, and he’s just waiting for him. In fact, if you thought they were going to find him murdered when they walked up to him and he was sitting still – you were meant to. Death is in the air everywhere.

See you tomorrow!

And Then There Were None – Chapter 7 (2 Dead; 8 Alive)

The chapters are getting short and sweet now – hang in there, one-day-at-a-timers – but we get to see the dark side of Emily Brent today.

But most importantly is the insight of Philip Lombard – everyone there has a committed a crime that cannot be punished by a regular court of law . . .

Not that that’s stopping our killer.

And, of course, no slasher story is complete without the inevitable search for the killer. “He must be hiding around here somewhere!” We’ll see how the search goes tomorrow…

And Then There Were None – Chapter 6 (2 Dead; 8 Alive)

A murder is probably the most unpleasant way to start off a week you could think of – unless you’re reading And Then There Were None along with us, in which case – yeah, we get a bit of action and excitement to kickstart Week 2!

Our second victim has fallen, but the idea hasn’t quite sunk in that a) there is a killer and b) it’s a serial killer (assuming, of course, that Dan wasn’t on to something with his multiple people killing each other – which he might have been… or might not have).

I also love that it’s the last beautiful morning on the island. The sun’s up, they’re enjoying their breakfast. Then – someone else is dead – and the boat doesn’t appear to be coming. Once we know the boat isn’t coming, we know we’re into total lockdown mode.

See you tomorrow!

And Then There Were None – Chapter 5 (1 Dead; 9 Alive)

Well, here we go – our first murder! Agatha has a certain methodical bent of mind to the way she writes. So she works through all the logical possibilities. Was it suicide? No, seems unlikely. (And we, the reader, know better than that.)

Poison? If so, how?

What’s interesting about this chapter, however, is what it brings out about the other characters. Dan Liebke asked a few days ago if we would see murderous thoughts in people’s heads . . .

Well, we’re starting to get an insight into a twisted bunch of people. The hanging judge. The general who sent his wife’s lover to his death. And perhaps most insidious of all – the nanny who let a child drown. . . . But he wasn’t a strong swimmer, so there wasn’t much she could do, right?

Have a good weekend – and I’ll meet you back on the Island on Monday!

And Then There Were None – Chapter 4 (1 Dead; 9 Alive)

It quickly emerges from this chapter that pretty much every one of our cast of suspects has been responsible for a death in the past – whether they would admit to it or not is another matter, and whether they would view it as murder is another thing altogether.

It reminds me a bit of The Usual Suspects – the main group pulled together are a group of criminals, and so there’s a sense that whatever happens to them, they probably deserve it – at least a little bit.

Either way, the die has been cast – and our first little Indian (or Soldier, if you’re reading an American version) or another word, if you’ve got the really, really old version – drops dead at the end of the chapter.

Nine to go. Question for the day: who would you bump off next?

See you tomorrow. No peeking ahead to the next chapter in the meantime…

And Then There Were None – Chapter 1 (0 Dead; 10 Alive)

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!

And Then There Were None – Starts Tomorrow!

And here we are – with one day to go. So I thought I’d provide just the barest bit of background that I could dig up on the novel.

It was originally written in 1939, and Agatha Christie herself described it as one of her best books – but immensely difficult to plot – as you will see for yourself when you read it.

It was a bestseller and still remains so, but it has changed title on several occasions. Partly this is due to the nursery rhyme that inspired the book. When she first wrote it, the book centres around a poem called Ten Little Niggers, and this was the original title of the book. The term wasn’t considered offensive in the UK, but certainly was in the States.

So the book’s title was changed to And Then There Were None for American audiences. This involved not just a title change, however. The original book features ten people who find themselves on a little island off the coast of England called Nigger Island.

So every reference in the book was rewritten to change the island to Indian Island, and the poem (which features heavily in the story) was changed to Ten Little Indians. This will most likely be the version of the story you have got, if you’ve picked it up in Australia or the UK.

However, if you’re in the States, I believe it’s been rewritten since, and the poem now refers to Ten Little Soldiers, and the island is called Soldier Island.

Either way, I hope you have found yourself a version of the book that you won’t be offended by, and we can instead enjoy the remarkable plotting and cleverness of this story which will be celebrating no less than it’s 70th anniversary this year. I think it’s aged astonishingly well. Let me know what you think over the new three weeks.

A bit of housekeeping. I’ll put new posts up on weeknights at 8pm Sydney time. If you have read the book before, please refrain from offering any spoilers of the chapters to come.