And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
The original title Ten Little Niggers makes me cringe but that’s what it says on the cover of my second hand copy. I guess it’s only an old nursery rhyme and not intended any more offensive than Baa Baa Black Sheep but it feels a bit icky. From the review at amazon.com I gather that the current edition takes place on Indian Island which reflects the intermediate title of Ten Little Indians whereas mine takes place on Nigger Island. Hmmm.
I find Agatha Christie scary more often than I care to admit. Her books are most often considered ‘cozies’ in the mystery field today, ‘cozies’ being a sub genre that consists mainly of books with surburban librarian sleuths who drink tea, wear slippers and never encounter real violence in the course of their investigations. The image of Miss Marple as a quiet little old lady knitting in the corner means that all Christie’s books are considered under the same umbrella. I don’t think that this is the right way to classify them all.
On the surface the plot of this book is at least a bit ridiculous. Ten mutual strangers are lured to, and abandoned on, an island off the Devon coast and they die one by one until, as the modern title tells you ‘and then there were none’. That’s a lot of deaths, and characters, for a hundred and eighty pages but Christie pulls it off because of the suspense she builds up in the process. The characters are formed just well enough to make their minds believable. I found the psychology necessary to make this book work quite genuinely scary and though the resolution of the plot is really rather banal it’s the psychological aspect that raises the whole story to a level where it’s not ridiculous.