And Then There were None – Epilogue

Just so there’s no misunderstandings, this post is on the epilogue, the next post tomorrow is on a mysterious “letter found in a bottle”.

In some ways, this chapter is a bit of a nod to Christie’s normal detective novels, where the police come in and try to sort out the crime. And maybe if Hercule Poirot was on hand or Miss Marple, they’d have a better chance.

But they’re coming up with nothing. We’re now enlightened about the fascinating back story about why the boat never came to rescue the 10 during the week, the involvement of Isaac Morris (the Jewish gentleman referenced back in Chapter 1, if you remember three weeks ago) and a little bit more background on our characters. (Though obviously our killer knew more about their back stories than the police were able to uncover.)

So in some ways, this chapter just serves to reiterate the mystery and deal with any final theories that people might have. (I like the bit best where they’re trying to work out how the last three could have died.) And who doesn’t feel creeped out by the chair below Vera’s body being placed neatly back against the wall?

Without a doubt, U N Owen is the 1930s precursor to Keyser Soze.

And sometime after this investigation was closed – we’re not sure how long – a boat comes across a bottle floating in the water with a letter in it. That letter, which we’ll read tomorrow, contains the final missing pieces of information that shed light on what took place on Indian Island . . .

See you tomorrow!

And Then There Were None – Chapter 13 (6 Dead; 4 Alive)

Now this chapter is where the cinematic potential of this story to be redone as a really scary slasher flick comes to the fore.

I love the levels of paranoia in this chapter – five people just sitting watching one another’s every move, checking that the drinks aren’t tampered with.

And then, despite all that, they’re still outsmarted by our very clever killer. Actually, with the whole costume thing – all the missing objects of the last few chapters now being revealed – I’d say a very clever, very twisted killer.

Hang in there, folks . . . only a few days more.

Oh yeah, Dan, and they gave you all the inner thoughts of everyone while they were sitting in the lounge room as well . . .

And Then There Were None – Chapter 12 (5 Dead; 5 Alive)

Well, we’re at the halfway mark now, as another of our suspects bites the dust. Oddly enough, she was our chief suspect from yesterday. We’re now down to five. Unlike that other island serial killer show, having less suspects doesn’t at all make it clearer who is likely to be a killer. (But if you do watch that island show, you would have well and truly worked out the identity by then.)

I’m quite enjoying the character of the Judge, because having worked in the law courts, the way he speaks is characteristic of the way Judges deliver summings up or sentences: very deliberately, point by point, logical.

How else could he persuade everyone to submit to strip-searching?

Actually, while all their actions (locking up the drugs, hunting for the gun, etc) logically make sense, all of this is really about persuading you, the reader, of the rules of the game. It’s Agatha Christie’s equivalent of the conjurer showing you that there’s nothing up his sleeves.

There’s a house, five people, missing gun, drugs all locked up. We’re all clueless. That’s the situation.

See you tomorrow!

And Then There Were None – Chapter 10 (3 Dead; 7 Alive)

Sorry this was later than the scheduled 8pm – it took a bit longer to get my daughter to sleep than I thought.

Well, I’m sorry that there have only been two murders this week (thus leaving the lion’s share for the final week of our reading project), but hopefully that will make the last week that more quick and bloodthirsty…

I find this chapter doesn’t contribute to theories so much as just indicates how these suspects react to the stress of the whole thing. If it was me, I’d be freaking out, wanting to sit in the corner of a room, armed with a gun and various sharp firearms.

These characters react in different ways – we see Vera and Philip form themselves into a bit of a duo and the Judge and the Doctor do the same. Menawhile, Emily Brent retreats into her own mind and Rogers is just nervous.

However, of all of these, Rogers seems to be the only one I’d cross off the list of suspects because we seem him on his own and he’s trying to ensure that no more Indian statues get stolen.

Or is that just a red herring?

Guess we’ll all know next week – either way, we’ll all have our doors bolted for the weekend.

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 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 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!