on 9 September 2013
After many years of this facsimile edition being promised, then withdrawn, it has finally been published by Harper Collins with a mixed US and UK facsimile of the original dust jacket, the front cover being the original 1940 US version. Whilst I would have liked a version with the original 1939 UK dust jacket, just to complete my collection, this was never going to happen due to the original UK title (Ten Little N*****s) being too controversial. Having said that, the cover for this version is beautifully reproduced and looks stunning.
The book itself has always been one of my favourites, with a cracking story involving ten strangers, invited by the mysterious U. N Owen to either holiday, visit or work at a mansion on the remote Soldier Island, off the Devon coast. Each of the visitors has a deadly secret... murder! Then their pasts finally catch up with them as a serial killer strikes and, one by one, ten become nine, then eight, then seven.... Just who is the killer in their midst and who will be the next victim???
The one main difference in this book is the renaming of the island and the classic children's rhyme; my paperback copy of the book was printed in 1990, and the island was called, even in those enlightened times, N****r Island. Someone has clearly gone through this edition with a fine toothed comb to ensure that no reader, however broadminded, is offended by politically incorrect language or sentiment.
If you are a fan of Agatha Christie, then you've either already read And Then There Were None or know what to expect; but, if you are new to Agatha Christie, then this would be a cracking way to start reading her classic murder mystery novels and short stories.
Either way, enjoy.
The setup is delicious: ten strangers are lured to an island on the promise of various things, employment, fun, etc. only to find that the hosts are not there and that the large, empty house only contains the guests and a couple of servants. After dinner on the first night, a recorded voice on a record player proclaims each one of them a murderer who has escaped their crimes - but no more! And then people start dying, one by one...
I've never read an Agatha Christie novel before, thinking that they would be corny or somehow like another popular writer whose work I disliked, Ellis Peters, but I was very, very wrong. This book was published in 1939 and is labelled "thriller" and yet 80+ years later I can attest to it remaining a thrilling read.
The elements of the story: that the guests have no way of leaving the island; that they slowly realise that one of them is the deranged killer with a warped sense of justice; the nursery rhyme which tells them how they're going to die but not the order - it's all so masterfully plotted by Christie, I was barrelling through the book, devouring the chapters eager to see who would survive, who was the killer, and why.
What's also surprising is the overarching sense of dread you have when reading. I read it at night, alone, with the rain pounding the windows and I found myself more terrified reading this than I'd been in years. This isn't just an amazing thriller, it's a truly scary horror novel too. As the number of guests dwindle, the claustrophobic atmosphere is palpable and the paranoia ramped up to such an extent that you can't help but keep reading at a ever-increasing pace until the final page.
The only real critique I have is the way the final guest snuffs it, before the big reveal. It seemed a bit contrived. But I suppose it was possible for it to happen that way... a long shot, but possible.
This is one of the finest mystery thrillers I've ever read which still manages to have an enormous pull on the reader decades after being published, an astonishing feat in itself. I wish I hadn't waited so long to read a Christie novel, this one was so good. I'll definitely read more and highly recommend this to all fans of great fiction.
This classic Christie whodunit has borne three different titles, which has been the source of some confusion. Originally published in England under the title "Ten Little Niggers" in 1939, it was retitled "And Then There Were None" for its 1940 American edition for obvious reasons. However, the English stage version of 1943 retained the "Niggers" title while the American stage version ran as "Ten Little Indians." Even more confusingly, the first film version, released in 1945, bore the American "And Then There Were None" title, while the three subsequent adaptations (1965, 1975, and 1989) took the "Ten Little Indians" title! The original offensive title comes from a Victorian-era music-hall song, which itself was a rip-off of an American song by Septimus Winner, circa 1868. All of which is neither here nor there, but only to help clear up any confusion. I would note that the most recent French edition bears the title "Dix petit negres", which somehow does not surprise me...
As for the actual novel, it's perhaps the ultimate whodunit of the "locked house" variety. Ten people are summoned to an island off the Devon coast, none of them know each other or their ostensible host. The story starts by showing the ten en route to the island and provides a brief character sketch of each as background. I have to confess that at first, some of the men kind of blend together, and it takes little time to keep straight who is who. Once on the island, the eight guests and two servants wait for their host, who never shows up. Completely cut off from the mainland, they grow restless until one of them dies. When another dies, it can be no mere coincidence, and they realize that one amongst them must be a killer. The rest of the book plays this cat and mouse game all the way out, leaving the reader guessing until the very end. Because of the number of characters, there's not a whole lot of depth to any of them, but the story is obviously plot-driven as opposed to character-driven, so that should come as no surprise. It's an incredibly elaborate (and thus slightly contrived) web that is woven, but great fun, especially in bleak, stormy weather!
on 14 April 2010
Ok, first things first, I love Agatha Christie.
I literally can't get enough of her novels (specifically that wonderful little Belgian)
So when I say this quite simply trumps them all (yes, even Poirot's finest) you get an idea of just how incredible this book is.
It is, in my mind, the perfect set up for a murder mystery: ten people trapped on an island being killed off one by one! Let the games begin!
The solution is beyond belief, but whats more, the journey itself is full of shock and awe and will keep you reading long after you intended to put it down to do other things.
My only grievance with this is that having read it already, I can never again experience its sense of overwhelming mystery and suspense with fresh, unknowing, eyes.
I will never again read a mystery novel that can surpass its sheer perfection, and that is the great sadness that comes hand in hand with the joy of this book.
Prepare yourself before reading, you are in for a treat.
Surely everyone in the world has read this book by now! Surely it tops the best-selling list of a best-selling author! Older readers may not recognize it by its current title, its original and a later replacement having been deemed too racist. Nothing racist, I hope, was picked in my school English classes, where I used it to help develop pupils' appetite for reading.
Agatha Christie's achievement is remarkable. She creates ten characters, all suspected of murder, who are lured to an island. She has them meet their deaths one by one as nominated in the nursery rhyme "Ten Little Indians" which is displayed in their rooms. She has each murder occur in a situation where almost all the other island guests might have had opportunity to commit it. As if devising all this were not enough, she also frequently takes us into the minds of the various characters - something that the whole nature of detective fiction usually prohibits. This construction is not only intricate but also compact; it is one of her shorter novels. Built on this scheme, the book must exclude Mrs Christie's regular sleuths, Poirot and Miss Marple. Instead, the dwindling number of island guests generate their own investigation.
So here is a book that offers double the pleasure that murder mysteries provide. As well as challenging you to solve the mystery, it also amazes you that so ingenious a mystery could be contrived.
on 20 October 2011
I just received an e-mail from Harper Collins in which they announced that the publication of "and then there were none" in facsimile has been cancelled. So for all the Agatha Christie fans who were hoping to have the entire collection this is bad news:-(
Just thought that this information might be helpfull to some of you
on 17 July 2006
The title says it all. Agatha Christie is THE greatest writer, and this is her greatest book of all. If ever I could recommend a book to bring a reader into the crime genre, this would be it.
I wont go into the story, as many have already done that for me, suffice to say that, improbable as the story sounds, it is utterly baffling, and yet, when the truth comes out, the true genius is revealed.
But it is not just the sheer genius of the story. As a crime novel, this work holds something else, a dark, sinister, brooding atmosphere, as people begin to expire. We are treated to some internal reflections of the characters, though we have no idea from whom the musings come.
Another factor is the way she writes, so simply, with such simple descriptions as to encourage our own mental image, so each will have their own picture of the scenes. This allows one to consume this marvellous novel in a single sitting, and yet, also you do not want it to end, even as the death toll rises. Everything is perfect, characters, setting, those teasing clues, and a truly twisted villain, as the end will reveal.
Well what can I say? I first read this book many, many years ago and it has always stayed in my mind as my favourite of all Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries, and after this re-read, it still is.
Although there is no Poirot or Miss Marple detecting, in fact there is practically no detection at all, there have to be more murders in this book than in any other of her novels!
For those of you who haven’t read this book the basic plot is a simple one: Ten people are invited to Soldier Island off the coast of Devon, by someone they believe they know some for work and some for pleasure. Only the very slow will not realise that the most common name seems to be one Mr or Miss U.N. Owen (Unknown). We meet the various guests as they travel down and they range from the old General to the young(ish) schoolmistress. In each of the bedrooms hangs a copy of the verse:
Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Soldier Boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one
One little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
In total seven men and three women are in the dining room when a disembodied voice accuses the guests of wrongdoings in the past. Before the night is out there is one dead guest and one missing china soldier figure from the original set of ten… And so the mystery begins and what a terrific one it is. Not only does the reader have the pleasure of trying to identify who the killer might be from the clues given but this particular reader got great enjoyment of working out how the next death would fit with the rhyme.
In the beginning of my copy there is a quote from Agatha Christie’s biography which states that it took a tremendous amount of planning to avoid becoming ridiculous. The prologue goes on to say that she was delighted that it was so well received but the person who was really pleased with it was herself. I can understand why!
Again being a book of its time, first published in 1939 it isn’t without some racism, in fact part of why it took me such a long time to find a good second-hand copy was because I only wanted one with this, the most modern of its titles, the others too unacceptable for my bookshelf. Even with the new title you can’t get away with some stereotyping about Jews but this wouldn’t have made the nation wince at the time it was written, as it did me. Indeed one of the reasons I like re-reading Agatha Christie’s novels are for the contemporary views at the time they were written, and in this one, although there are fewer examples we do have a few, such as those about the spinster Emily Blunt.
If you are one of those people who haven’t read any of Agatha Christie’s books, this is still my favourite and a great place to experience the Queen of Crime’s ability not only to think up a great plot but to execute it with aplomb!
on 20 January 2001
As I usually read Poirot books by Agatha Christie I was unsure how good this book was going to be. I eventually decided to buy the book because I wanted a hardback copy of one of my favourite authors books. Once I began to read this book I could not put it down and I hurried to the end of the book. The final conclusion of this book was so unexpected and so perfect it had me thinking for days. I can thoroughly reccomend this book to anyone who is a fan of mysteries or anyone who simply enjoys an excellent read. This is definetly Christie at her thought provoking best!
on 13 December 2010
M A Dalton of Brisbane, Australia, wants to know why this title appears to have been pulled. Could it be something to do with the original title? All these books are facsimiles of the original UK publications and dust jackets. The original title, realeased in the UK, was Ten Little Niggers - And Then There Were None is the American title for the book. Could Harper Collins be a little jittery about publishing the book with the original UK dust jacket? If they release it with the original US dust jacket, then this would not be in keeping with all the other previously released and future releases of the UK facsimile publications. Best to contact Harper Collins (UK) direct, I guess. ***UPDATE*** - as I thought, it is the title that is causing the problem - these are UK facsimiles and the original title is causing some debate. I have just heard back from Harper Collins UK, and the matter will be discussed in the new year (2011) and they are hoping to finally publish the facsimile edition towards the end of 2011.