And Then There Were None must rank as one of Agatha Christie’s most fiendishly clever novels, and that’s saying something.
Agatha herself, although not necessarily liking it the best of all her crime novels, believed it to be a better piece of ‘craftsmanship’ than anything else she had written. I agree – I have read it several times and find it flawless.
It is perhaps the most atmospheric of her crime stories and it always seems wonderful to me that although it is set on an island, it still manages to be exceedingly claustrophobic.
And Then There Were None tells of an apparently disparate group of people who are invited to an island mansion off the coast of Devon. Once there, it quickly becomes obvious that there is a killer on the loose, and then to their horror, they realise that they are marooned – there is no escape from the island.
Once more, psychology is a key factor – each one of these people has something to hide and the nature of their guilty secret is in keeping with their basic personality weakness – greed, envy, self-righteousness etc.
As one death follows another, one can feel the tension mounting and those remaining – in deadly fear of their lives – can trust absolutely no-one.
The first time reader, right up to the last dozen pages, will be utterly (but pleasurably) baffled as to who the guilty party is. And I guarantee will be amazed! The ending is truly sensational.
In my capacity as director of an amateur theatre company, I have directed the stage version of ‘And Then There Were None.’
In it’s own right, it is a super play and because I was fortunate in having an excellent cast, we managed to create the right feeling of menace and the production was a great success.
However, I do have to say that the change of ending drastically weakens the story. Agatha Christie considered it necessary to alter the ending for the stage version, but I don’t really see why. So if you’ve only ever seen the play, you really should read the book. You’ll be in for a surprise!
When it was first published, the novel had a title that most people nowadays would find deeply offensive. What does surprise me is that in my latest (1993) edition, although carrying the title ‘And Then There Were None’ both the name of the island and the all-important nursery rhyme still contain the unacceptable word.
It is so easy to change these – as I did in the above-mentioned stage production – that I really cannot see why it hasn’t been done. I mention this fact to warn anyone contemplating reading the book for the first time, but I do trust this will not put anyone off.
Because to my mind, ‘And Then There Were None’ ranks up there with ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ as an Agatha Christie masterpiece.
You can get hold of this murder mystery classic via the following links.And Then There Were None