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on 19 May 2016
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.
"Ten people dead on an island and not a living soul on it. It doesn't make sense. We don't know who did it, or why, or how."
Regarded as Christie's masterpiece, the most difficult of her books to write and more than 100 million copies sold worldwide to cement the reputation of Christie as the Queen of Crime. Sarah Phelp's recent adaptation of the book was atmospheric and gripping with a stellar cast lead by Charles Dance, Aidan Turner and Sam Neill.
The book needed an epilogue to explain who the culprit was and why he had chosen his particular victims for this fantastical crime, "something stupendous-out of the common. Something theatrical, impossible." Sir Thomas Legge, the Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard and Inspector Maine try to piece it together after the discovery of the bodies and can't quite get it right.
"Some fanatic with a bee in his bonnet about justice. He was out to get people who were beyond the reach of the law. He picked ten people-whether they were really guilty or not doesn't matter." The manner of their deaths resembled the children's nursery rhyme hung in each of the bedrooms. (Frank Green 1869)
Christie decided to include a simple device of a message in a bottle. More formally it was referred to as a manuscript document sent to Scotland Yard by the master of the Emma Jane fishing trawler. This amounted to a confession by the murderer before killing himself. It was enclosed in a bottle, sealed and cast into the sea. It neatly sums up what the police were unable to do and reveals the instability and dangerous nature of the murderer: "I have a definite sadistic delight in seeing or causing death." He wanted it to be on a grand scale and it was!
The story is set in August 1939 and centres around an island off the coast of Devon called Soldier Island. The island was engulfed in mystery and was isolated, prone to storms so it proved the perfect venue to carry out mass murder. When there is a south-easterly wind you can’t land on the island. Sometimes it can be cut off for a week or more. An American millionaire, Elmer Robson, had bought the island and he had built a luxurious and modern house where his guests stayed. There were more recent rumours that Gabrielle Turl, the Hollywood film star had bought it. This couldn't be verified. We do know that a Mr and Mrs U.N.Owen had bought the island recently and they had employed a Mr Isaac Morris to invite a number of people to the island. He was able to concoct a suitable bait for each of his victims to entice them to spend a week on the island before killing them, one at a time.
The characters are introduced as they are travelling from various destinations to Soldier Island. Justice Wargrave has just retired from the bench after a long and successful career. It seemed that he had been invited by an old friend, Constance Culmington to catch up on the old days and commune with nature. He hadn't seen her for seven or eight years. He thinks that even Constance could have bought the island. He was known as the hanging judge. He had a great power with the juries: “it was said he could make their minds up for them any day of the week.”
Vera Claythorne was looking forward to being offered a summer job on the island. She had been teaching games in a third-rate school and had had a strenuous term. Working as Mrs Owen’s secretary sounded enticing. Philip Lombard was a ruthless mercenary. He had been offered a hundred guineas to keep a look-out. He was broke so he accepted the assignment. We are told continually that he moved like a panther and likened to a beast of prey. He is the only guest to carry a revolver which makes him one of the chief suspects once the killing spree begins.
Emily Brent is a religious fanatic. She had received a letter from an old acquaintance from Bellhaven Guest House inviting her for a free holiday on the island. Her income had been reduced so a free holiday was always welcoming. She reads from her Bible about the day of judgment: “the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.” General Macarthur seemed to have received an invitation from his cronies. He had mixed feelings when he landed, delight as he climbed the stairs followed by unease. Dr Armstrong was sent a cheque asking him to keep an eye on Owen’s wife without alarming her. Owen’s wife didn’t appear!
Mr Blore was using a pseudonym, Davis and had invented a story that he was from South Africa. Lombard spots the deceit immediately. Blore was an ex-detective. Mr and Mrs Rodgers were the butler and his wife, the cook. Dr. Armstrong was in need of a long holiday. He found Soldier Island magical, a world of fantasy. “You lost touch with the world-an island was a world of its own. A world, perhaps, from which you might never return.” Christie throws in plenty of clues to keep us on our guard. Something is very odd. Even the characters feel it. They eyed each erring on the side of caution. Then there was Anthony Marston who came for the drink and the prospect of women. Rich and spoilt. The first to be poisoned.
After dinner together, the guests relaxed and started to open up a little with more freedom and intimacy. Marston noticed ten little china figures sitting on the table, looking quite harmless but odd. And then it happened… There was a voice without warning, inhuman, penetrating accusing the guests of crimes committed- causing the deaths of other fellow men, with dates included. They are addressed as prisoners at the bar. There was a petrified silence followed by anger and shock. Then there’s a touch of Lord of the Flies with evidence that a madman (or woman) is out to kill each and every one of them. Suspicion, paranoia, trapped on the island with a madman intent on killing.
By the time three survivors remained Lombard suggested heliographing with a mirror, sending out an SOS in the hope of a rescue from the mainland. Some of them kept diaries and notes so it was possible for the police to piece together vital clues.
The man, Isaac Morris who had provisioned the island and made all the necessary arrangements died. Was he also killed? “He explained to the people down there (Sticklehaven) that there was some experiment on-some bet about living on a “desert island” for a week-and that no notice was to be taken of any appeal for help from out there.”
It’s a clever book and you’ll probably have to read it through right to the end before you discover the murderer. You won’t be disappointed.
Publisher: Harper Collins Publisher. ISBN: 978-0-00-713683-4
REVIEW it by Carol Naylor.
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on 13 December 2016
Agatha Christie has been called "The Queen of Crime" and the brilliantly executed And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians & etc.) rightly supports that shining crown. Simply this is a book perfect for anyone who loves a good crime thriller or has been searching for a puzzle of personalities and consciences that can’t be solved or will go cold and stiff within a couple chapters. Published in 1939 the original title has changed a few times and to the modern reader certain late events can be predictable (especially with the occasional jigs of foreshadowing in sections) but it has stood proudly in the shelves and continues to gather a following of different audiences each passing year. I don’t wish to give too much away of what can be found in these short powerful pages but this is the one and only mystery that can be seen as the clever blueprint to ALL contemporary mysteries, you are sure to come across pieces in this yarn that “just remind you of something” but in this humble reader’s opinion, no one these days on the silver screen or crowding the lists can create a diversion or throw a red herring like Dame Christie and And Then There Were None is the perfect place to start your own special collection of mystery and entertainment.
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Review of: And Then There Were None (Kindle Edition)
The classic murder mystery in all its glory. A group of people, seemingly strangers, are tricked into coming to stay in a large house on a remote island. Murders begin...one by one...it seems, in order of their own personal guilt, culminating, finally, with the murder of the most culpable. The mounting tension and total feeling of claustrophobia is palpable throughout the book. This is, by no means, my favourite Agatha Christie (although in 2015 it was rated as the worlds most popular Agatha Christie) but it rather stands alone on its own merit - whilst formulaic it's, nonetheless, a fantastic read. ( The audiobook read by Dan Stevens and the recent television adaptation are, also, both very worthwhile). Recommended.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 December 2015
Agatha Christie was not merely prolific in her output., She was also constantly trying to innovate, taking the whodunit to new levels. With 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd' she had introduced a new twist (seen as cheating by some aficionados of the genre) With this novel (one of a very select group of novels that have sold more than one hundred million copies worldwide), she experimented again, with similarly dazzling success.

Eight guests find themselves invited to a house party on Soldier Island, a small islet just off the Cornish Coast, where they are welcomed by Mr and Mrs Rogers, the butler and his wife. As they all start to chat to each other, however, it turns out that none of them are quite sure why they have been invited. They compare their stories and find that most of them seem to have been summoned my a Mr or Mrs U N Owen. Further questioning reveals that Mr and Mrs Rogers had been hired through an agency and had never met the owners, either. After dinner on the first evening, a strange announcement is made, making a series of allegations against everyone in the party. And then they start dying, one by one, in increasingly sinister circumstances.

It is probably about forty years since I first read this novel, and while I could remember quite clearly who the perpetrator was, I was just as spellbound by it. I am fairly sure that I wouldn't have been able to guess who the murderer was, though the clues are certainly all there. As a young boy I read my way through Agatha Christie's works, one after another, taking them all at face value, unaware of any social comment or her lambasting of conventions. The satire is certainly there, though Christie never lets it get in the way of her plots.
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VINE VOICEon 31 December 2015
This is one of Christie's most famous novels, and the one of the best-selling novels of all time, having sold in excess of 100 million copies. It is beautifully constructed and maintains a strong sense of tension throughout. It is a stark novel, using the isolation of the ten individuals on the island very effectively, which contrasts with the more comfortable feel of those of the author's novels where an outsider, usually either Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, solves the murder in question. This one eminently deserves its high reputation.

I was prompted to read this having watched the excellent BBC adaptation over the Christmas period. The plot of this adaptation stayed very faithful to the original narrative, except for handling the ending somewhat differently, though this change seems justified in light of the difference between television and book as media. In any case, this ending is closer to Christie's original than that of almost any of the other film and TV adaptations.
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on 21 January 2016
This is much more gritty than your usual Agatha Christie, eg Poirot or Miss Marple. There are no cosy English villages nor is there the traditional 'meeting' at the end where the killer is revealed. This novel takes place in a sort of pressure cooker - 10 people lured to Soldier Island by the mysterious U. N. Owen under various pretences. One by one they are picked off and deception and suspicions soon abound.

The plot is a thrilling mystery with a very satisfying and cunning ending. This is a very punchily written book, with lots of dialogue which one can speed through quickly. This is a fast and furious read and is highly recommended for Christie and general crime fans.
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on 1 August 2015
Recently I became something of an Agatha Christie-phile. After easing myself in gently with, what else but, Murder On the Orient Express, I moved quickly on to The ABC Murders and then Evil Under The Sun. The first two I loved; the third, not so much. Then came And Then There Were None, and it absolutely blew me away. Evil Under The Sun's main problem for me was the distinct lack of action - in essence, the book features one brief murder and then concentrates solely on the suspects' alibis. A little dull, I thought. No such problem though with And Then There Were None. The body count is so high that every few pages there's someone getting bumped off. And the set-up - a collection of strangers maroomed in an old, dark house getting picked off one by one - has been copied in movies ranging from thriller to horror to sci-fi.
A hugely enjoyable book then; and one I can't wait to read again, now that I know the twist, to see if I can pick up on all the clues I so obviously missed the first time.
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on 25 January 2017
I absolutely LOVE this story! A true mystery that keeps you guessing right until the very end.
I also really recommend getting the audiobook version for a long journey. I recently recommended the book to my boyfriend before he embarked​ on an 8 hour drive on his own. The book was around 7 hours long and so was completed during the journey, and acted as a good companion!
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on 28 December 2015
After the first episode of the recent bbc adaptation I was hooked on the story. I managed to just finish the book before the final episode and sat very smugly as the rest of the family were still guessing. Brilliant masterpiece of crime writing keeping you puzzled until the end. This is only the 2nd Agatha Christie novel I've read and after this book I have already started another. Would definitely recommend to any murder mystery fans that enjoy something a little bit more thrilling than the formulaic detector story. (I would also add that the bbc did a very good job in transferring it to screen- a must watch after the book)
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on 21 August 2017
Different to any other Agatha Christie story in that there is no detective puzzling over a single murder but ten people stranded on an island (called Soldier Island here, a necessary update) being gradually killed by one of them. The ending was startling, unlike many of the film versions and a stage version which I have seen, The latest television production went back to the roots.It stands the test of time but it makes sense being written in the 1930s that no one had any means to communicate with the outside world.Totally gripping.
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