Like most Agatha Christie novels, I’ve listened to And Then There Were None a dozen times and know the solution of the mystery by heart. It was interesting to slow down and read it on paper, because different things jumped out at me.
Enveloped in an aura of righteousness and unyielding principles, Miss Brent sat in her crowded third-class carriage and triumphed over its discomfort and its heat.And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie’s prose is clear and to-the-point, summing up all ten of her main characters in only a few words. The descriptions of Emily Brent and Anthony Marston were particularly effective, while on the other hand it’s easy to get ex-Inspector Blore and Philip Lombard mixed up in the early stages. Even knowing the ending, it’s interesting to watch the atmosphere of increasing dread play havoc on everyone’s anxieties.
“My point is that there can be no exceptions allowed on the score of character, position or probability. What we must now examine is the possibility of eliminating one or more persons on the facts. To put it simply, is there among us one or more persons who could not possibly have administered cyanide to [the first victim], or an overdose of sleeping draughts to [the second victim], and who had no opportunity of striking the blow that killed [the third victim]?”And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
One of the things which makes And Then There Were None a really clever mystery is the total lack of trustworthy sources. Every character is equally open to suspicion, and that means the reader can’t trust anything, not even murder mystery staples like time of death or who last saw the victim alive. And by the time solid alibis are established, the characters are all too psychologically wound up to recognise and act on it.
While And Then There Were None is widely recognised as one of Agatha Christie’s most unique offerings, it’s surprising to me that it’s so often recommended to people who haven’t read any others. The very fact that it’s not a detective story makes it a slightly odd place to begin. I’d advise new Christie readers to start with something a bit more traditional and work their way up to And Then There Were None once they’re familiar with the format!