May 31, 2021

#08-090: And Then There Were None

black-and-white photo of six men of various ages and stations gathered in a drawing room and seemingly engaged in an intense discussion
Still from a 1945 film adaptation of the novel

Note: No one wrote mysteries like Agatha Christie, and none of her mysteries was as successful as this one!

Get Ready: Do you like mystery stories? Are you good at figuring them out?

Over 45 years after her death, the British mystery writer Dame Agatha Christie remains the best-selling fiction author of all time, with more than two billion copies of her novels sold. And none has been more popular than the 1939 And Then There Were None, which is not only her, but the world's, best-selling mystery, selling over 100 million copies.

The story is set in a manor house on an island off the coast of Devon in southwest England. Eight seemingly-unrelated people have been drawn together, along with two household staff, and all ten--including the staff--are murdered one by one in various ingenious ways.

An alternate title of the book references a children's rhyme, "Ten Little Indians," a copy of which is posted in each guest's room. In that poem, each "little Indian" also meets disaster until the last line, which is the title most commonly used for this book: "And then there were none." Likewise, there are ten figurines on the dining table, and each time a person is murdered, one of the figurines disappears.

On the first night, a phonograph plays a message after supper, accusing each guest and the husband-and-wife staff of having committed murder themselves. As the story continues, each person's death more-or-less corresponds to his or her crime, and/or reflects a line in the children's rhyme.

For example, the first, Anthony James Marston, had killed two children while driving recklessly. He chokes while drinking, and the rhyme says, "Ten little Indians went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were Nine." Thomas Rogers, the butler, is killed with an axe while chopping wood ("One chopped himself in halves...") Emily Caroline Brent dies of injected poison, like the little Indian who was stung by a bumblebee.

But we must look closely at Mr. Justice Lawrence John Wargrave, the sixth to die--or so it seems. He had sentenced to death an innocent man, after influencing jury to find him guilty.

SPOILER ALERT: Near the end of the book, a bottle is pulled from the sea with a note in it. There we learn that the judge was the real host of this grim "party," and was exacting justice on each person there. He had faked his death and continued to kill the others until, with them all gone, he repeats his murder for real, covering up the suicide to throw the investigating officers off the scent.

A diabolical plot indeed!


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. billion
  2. diabolical
  3. figurines
  4. grim
  5. ingenious
  6. injected
  7. jury
  8. manor house
  9. phonograph
  10. recklessly

  1. carelessly
  2. the main house of an estate
  3. devilish; evil
  4. small statues
  5. sinister; stern
  6. a group of people who give the judgement in a court trial
  7. given as a shot
  8. an old-fashioned device for playing sound recordings
  9. clever
  10. 1,000,000,000

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for May 31, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. j; 2. c; 3. d; 4. e; 5. i; 6. g; 7. f; 8. b; 9. h; 10. a