Discomfort, insecurity and unease seep and intensify as Agatha Christie’s seminal work And Then There Were None unravels and tightens, frightens and feigns.
Published in 1939, And Then There Were None broke the mystery writers’ pact; clues revealed by the protagonist detective were also shared with the reader. This was established protocol, starting with Edgar Allen Poe inherited by Wilkie Collins and passed onto Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Like The Murder of Rodger Ackroyd, Christie kills this main tenant of the mystery genre. Masterfully.
An unknown host lures 10 individuals, each carrying a history of murder, to a small island’s mansion just off the Devon coast, where they are forced to face their past, at first hidden, then revealed, judged and ultimately meet their fate. Who? Why? How? The complicated answer reveals Christie’s masterful plot structure. One that today has been endlessly imitated. Think Columbo, Perry Mason, Murder, She Wrote and Monk. Like Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood or Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, Christie’s And Then There Were None structure was never before done. Today, this plot outline has been so widely adapted that even Family Guy features an episode entitled, “And Then There Were Fewer.”
Why would Bollywood adapt this story into a musical comedy? Why would the story be translated into 50 languages? Why is this title the “go-to” Agatha Christie on school reading list? Why is this the number one Christie title?
The appeal of Christie is universal. We all harbor guilt, struggle with class, fear injustice; themes that are found at the heart of this story. Add an intricate weaving then unraveling of suspenseful plot and one begins to understand the appeal of Christie.
Plus, guilt, class and justice yield no clues to as to why the 10 begin to die or manage to stay alive, all based on the motif, a cautionary poem, Ten Little Indians. Nerves of the characters and readers begin to fray.
And Then There Were None was my first Christie novel experienced on page. For years, I have been a fan of Joan Hixon’s Miss Marple and David Suchet’s Hercule Poirot.
Like detectives, I discovered the voluminous research about this writer, who, according to various polls, ranks somewhere between The Bible and Shakespeare.
Agatha Christie’s own life, apparently a happy one-a rarity, it seems for authors-was one of great love, loss, travel, fame and family. Amazing facts about Christie are found on endless fan sites, in documentary films and books.
One gem discovered as I explored the world of Agatha Christie: Mary Westmacott.
Those little grey cells must be called to action in order to find out more,