Originally published as “Ten little Niggers”, and now available as “And Then There Were None” is one of the brightest pieces of Agatha Christie’s much-celebrated work. The marvel of this book lies in its simple storyline and brilliant execution revealing the different response of each of the “victim aka murderer (!)” to the approaching inevitable end, thus combining the fast pace of action to the intricate mysteries of human mind and behaviour. The story has fascinated readers ever since its publication and countless plays and cinematic adaptations are made throughout the world including TV serials, Hollywood and Bollywood movies, etc.
As the book opens, we are introduced to eight different characters, Anthony Marston, General McArthur, Emily Bent, Dr. Armstrong, William Blore, Philip Lombard, Vera Claythorne and Justice Wargrave, as different as can be from one another. All of them are invited by a certain person by the name of U. N. Owen to his island on different pretexts i.e., invitation to spend a vacation or a job offer. When they arrive at the island, they are greeted by a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers who act as housekeepers. None of them has met their host yet and they start feeling a little uneasy. After a splendid dinner, a record is played where a voice charges each of them with a murder for which they were never punished because it was committed in a way not traceable by the law. So now, this U. N. Owen or “Unknown” person has taken it in his/her hand to punish them for their crime.
And with the finality of fate, people start dying, one after another. The murders follow a simple nursery rhyme:
Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Soldier boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Soldier boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Soldier boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two Little Soldier boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Soldier boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
The story keeps you on the edge with the fact that people on the island know that they are going to be killed, they know how the next murder is going to take place, and yet none of them is able to escape. They doubt each other, search everyone for poison or weapons, stay together, keep an eye on one another, but none of these works. The island has become unapproachable by the rest of the world due to the storm and rough sea. And they are forced to live in terror and die in suspense without knowing the identity of their killer. When the police come to the island, they are baffled to find ten corpses with no possible solution of the mystery. In addition to these ten, the man who had managed the financial matters for Mr. Owen in purchasing and setting up the house at the island is also dead.
The solution to the puzzle finally presents itself at the end of the novel in form of a letter written by the murderer himself, who is one of the ten dead people. It is this marvellous execution and the crystal clear ruthless course of events that makes this book a true masterpiece…Enjoy Reading..