Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None
Agatha Christie

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ten strangers are invited to visit a luxurious private island off the coast of Devon, England. People are talking about who the mysterious new owner of Soldier Island might be. The curious guests don’t care. Their invitations suggest a vague connection to a person named Owen and they all accept. When they arrive, there is no host, just a message to settle in.

After dinner, a shocking and eerie recording charges each with separate murders. “Prisoners at the bar,” the voice asks, “have you anything to say in your defence?” Although never officially charged with the murders, it’s a new kind of justice on Soldier Island and it turns out that each guest has something to hide:

Something went terribly wrong for one of Dr. Edward Armstrong’s patients. The butler and cook, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, must explain how a woman under their care died. Spinster Emily Brent must account for the death of a young woman. Former detective William Blore lied under oath, and the defendant died. For Vera Claythorne it’s the drowning death of a young boy. Captain Philip Lombard once left twenty-one East African tribesmen without food or water. General John Macarthur sent one of his men to certain death. Anthony Marston’s drunken driving took the lives of two young people. And Justice Lawrence Wargrave abused his influence in court, sending the defendant to his death.

As a storm rages, one by one, the guests die, just like in the children’s nursery rhyme, “Ten Little Soldiers.” They soon understand they are isolated and their supply boat won’t return for days. What to do?

This is my second Agatha Christie mystery and it’s perfectly constructed. Every clue means something (even the red herring!) and the eventual explanation is clever and satisfying. Just like when you meet a stranger, you have to go through the process of learning about the person and understanding his or her motives. Because they each have something to hide, you can’t know for sure if this one has a good reason for having a weapon or if that one has a good explanation for what went wrong in the past. And as the numbers dwindle, their strategies change. Is staying together as a group a good idea? Is it best to lock yourself in your room?

In a twisted form of vigilante justice, the killer makes his/her guests pay for crimes that were untouchable by the law. How they react and how they justify their actions is just as interesting as the mystery itself.

I enjoyed And Then There Were None, but I’m taking off a star because of the occasional racist commentary, which I also noticed in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Can you go back and change the way a classic and famous book is written? I don’t think so, but this story did undergo a couple title changes. You can read my review of The Mysterious Affair at Styles and find links about the subject here.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

34 thoughts on “Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

  1. As an Agatha Christie fan, I’ve read all of her novels. It has been a while since I’ve read “And Then There Were None.” It’s difficult to rate a book written during different times than our own.

    1. I agree – I don’t know what to do about it but I felt I couldn’t give it 5 stars because of the characterizations and commentary. It’s otherwise and excellent mystery- very clever. Thank you for reading and commenting, Rosaliene.

  2. The first title of this book was so offensive I cant believe she got away with it. In fact in America they changed the title as even in 1939 it was considered offensive.

    1. I know – I believe it went through several title changes. It is offensive. It’s hard to rationalize. Even with the different times then. Thanks for adding to the discussion, Darlene.

  3. I love Agatha Christie novels. Thanks for this review Barbara. Saw the movie on Netflix I think some while ago – it was excellent. I didn’t know about the racist elements –

    1. Hi Susan – most of the book is excellent, just the few random remarks took away from it. I’m sure the movie on Netflix left them out. Thanks so much for stopping by. Hope you are doing well – summertime down there?

  4. I guess you could say I’m warming up to cold-blooded killings. Although murder mysteries have not been my genre of choice, one of my author friends has come up with a series of suspense thrillers set in the Pacific Northwest. She includes delicious menus in the setting of a writers’ retreat + a beloved wolfhound, so there’s more than just death. Thanks for this review by a time-tested author.

    1. Hi Marian – yes those kinds of “recipe” mysteries are very popular. I hadn’t read many mysteries until I took over the mystery book club at my library job. I’ve grown to appreciate the genre – there are many excellent mysteries, beginning with the classics. Thank you for stopping by!

  5. I read this a very long time ago, and saw a TV series based on the book. But I also recently read and reviewed “The Invisible Host” which, they say, was the inspiration for this Christie novel.

    1. Hi Jennifer – yes, I agree about both parts. I find it hard to believe that authors got away with using titles and language like that. Thank you for stopping by – it’s a beautiful day here – what’s it like on the water up there?

    1. Hi Robbie – yes, I thought it was nearly perfect in construction. I read that Agatha Christie said it was the hardest book for her to write! Thank you for stopping by 🙂

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