Wednesday, November 02, 2011

And Then There Was ... Agatha Christie

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Despite Agatha Christie's immense popularity, I've only read one of her books: And Then There Were None. Even though I read it during my teen years (you know, back in the Dark Ages), the haunting poem around which the novel's centered stayed with me. So, when one of my contacts at Harper Collins - which has become the author's global publisher - offered to send me any Christie title I wanted, I chose to re-read this classic murder mystery. And, yes, my dear Watson, the "Ten Little Indians" poem still creeped me out.

In case you need a refresher, And Then There Were None begins with ten strangers arriving at an imposing mansion on a remote island off England's Devon coast. Although all have been invited by a "U.N. Owen," none of the guests have actually met their host. Even the estate's staff, a married couple charged with cooking, cleaning, and serving food, has never encountered Owen face-to-face. It's a curious situation, one that makes more than one guest a little uneasy.

As soon as dinner's finished on the first night of the guests' stay in the mansion, they get an inkling of the purpose behind their visit. First, each is accused of a heinous crime. Then, one member of the party dies. More misfortune befalls the guests, until it becomes obvious that someone is murdering them, one by one. Not only that, but the deaths follow the pattern outlined in a macabre poem, copies of which hang on the walls of every guest's bedroom. Stranded on an isolated island with no help in sight, the remaining guests must work together to solve the mystery. Before the killer silences them all.

First published in 1939, And Then There Were None remains a masterpiece of crime fiction. It's a quick read - mostly dialogue - which wastes little time on character development or unnecessary details. It moves quickly, ending with a resolution I should have seen coming (especially considering I'd already read the book once), but didn't. Despite its atmospheric setting, And Then There Were None isn't really a spooky story ... and yet, I slept with the light on the night I read it. It's that suspenseful, that taut. The book may be 72 years old, but, in my opinion, it's still got it going on. If you haven't read it yet, do.

(Readalikes: Hm, I can't think of any, although it reminded me a lot of the movie Clue [1985])

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for violence, mild language and vague references to extramarital affairs

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of And Then There Were None from the generous folks at Harper Collins. Thank you!

6 comments:

  1. Agatha Christie...a master of her craft. She was the queen of the "locked room" mystery and was really innovative in her plots. Her books stand up well all these years later, which just goes to show how talented she was. Have you seen any of the film adaptations of this book? Some are pretty good.

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  2. I read this book for a book report in high school and that poem stayed with me too!! I thought it was so sinister and creepy! I also remember it was the first time I learned what a red herring was =)

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  3. Back in my dark ages of high school, I got on an Agatha kick and read a bunch of her books. This was one of them, and I really liked it! Hadn't thought of it in years....Thanks for the reminder. :)

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  4. One of our English teachers and I were just talking about this book. I've never read it, and she highly recommended it. Now, with this wonderful review -- I'm convinced. I'm going to have to put this on the ol' pile. Thanks!

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  5. Back in my 20s I read every Agatha Christie I could! I was a big mystery reader all through my childhood, teens and 20s. Never could write one though . . . :-)

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  6. I read a lot of Christie in my teens as well...she sure is a master! This was always one of my favorites!!


    ♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf

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