I really like Agatha Christie. I somehow managed to miss her books (like so many other authors) when I was younger, or I have a feeling I would have gobbled them up long ago. Still, I've discovered her now, and have only read a small handful, so I can happily read my way through her extensive list of books at leisure. They are perfect comfort reads--great little conundrums that are not only entertaining, but tease the brain a bit as well. How did she manage to create so many clever puzzles over and over again? And Then There Were None, published in 1939, must be the ultimate locked door mystery, though it takes place in not just one room, but on an island off the coast of Devon. Eight guests arrive by boat joining a staff of two, but none of them leave alive!
The story opens with eight very different guests traveling to Indian Island having been invited by the island's wealthy owner known to them only as Mr. U.N. Owen. Mr. Justice Wargrave is lately retired from the bench. Vera Claythorne, a games mistress, has been hired as a secretary for the summer holiday. Philip Lombard is a soldier of fortune of dubious reputation. Miss Emily Brent, a stodgy old maid, believes she's been invited to stay in a newly opened guest house. General Macarthur expects to meet two old war buddies on the island. Dr. Armstrong has been hired to look after the host's wife. Tony Marston is a playboy who drives too fast and parties hard. And Mr. Blore arrives under assumed pretences. Thomas and Ethel Rogers, the housemaid and butler welcome the guests and tell them that their host has been delayed a day. It's a queer lot of people who have been motored out by a local boatman. They seem to have little in common and appear unlikely guests for such a purportedly wealthy man.
The scene would appear to be much like any other country house party until after dinner a disembodied Voice, high and clear, announces just why these ten people have been assembled together. Each has some secret in their past, some terrible crime or willful accident. Whatever each has done they have escaped paying for their "crime". When it's discovered that the Voice is only a record that the butler was instructed to play on the gramophone without realizing its content, the group becomes suspicious of just why they have been invited to the island. They begin comparing notes on how they received their invitations, on who sent them and the content of each. And then one by one the guests turn up dead, just like the nursery rhyme each has found posted in their rooms.
Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late;
One overslept and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon;
One said he's stay there then there were seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Indian boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself and then there were none.
With each new body one small ceramic Indian is removed from the set on display. Tensions run high as those left try and decipher the mystery while at the same time doubting each other's story.
Just why have they been brought together? Who exactly is their host and where is he? And what does he want? There is no boat on the island, though it is well stocked with supplies. A local boatman is supposed to make daily runs to the island, but a storm breaks out that makes it impossible for anyone from the mainland to sail out. And then the guests start dying. Is there a murderer somewhere hiding on this tiny island, or is she/he amongst them? This is a short, quick novel to read and giving away any more details would be spoiling the best part of the story.
So how does Agatha do it? Ten guests and ten bodies. She leaves a trail of clues for the reader, but the solution just might surprise you. There is no detective per se until the last chapter or two and even he is stumped, the crimes happen and then the explanation follows. This is supposedly one of Agatha Christie's most read mysteries and one of the best selling books of all time. I really enjoyed this, just as I've enjoyed all of her books that I've read, but I think I still call Death on the Nile my favorite (thus far). It was my last RIP read--I managed to complete the challenge and read five books in total. I'm sorry to see it come to an end, but I'm sure I'll continue to read suspenseful stories (as a matter of fact I can almost guarantee it!).