I have only recently acquired the taste for murder mysteries, blame Keigo Higashino for it, and, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is my second book by The Queen of Crime. She now shines bright on the stage of my celebrated authors. Where the hell was I all this time, not having picked a single book by her? They are the true mysteries in the sense that they needed all the deduction power in the world and minimal help from scientific and technological progress. This book, however, blew my mind away and is definitely going to be one of those which I’d recommend to all.
Ten people from extremely varied backgrounds are called to Soldier Island for a summer vacation, or so they have been made to believe, by their hosts, Mrs. and Mr. U. N. Owen. The very day they all arrive, their nightmare begins. With a delay in their hosts’ arrival, these ten members of the resort are blamed for crimes they deny committing. One by one, dead bodies start turning up in cruel accordance with a horrific nursery rhyme and they start getting out of their wits to figure out who could be behind all the bloodshed. With practically no other place to hide on the island, they suspect and agree that it has to be one of them. But who? And the bigger question, why?
Agatha Christie’s writing is nothing short of amazement. She wrote in an era when detective novels were booming and usually had a stereotypical cast and setting, a small English village/place cut off from the outside world, a few characters who had links to aristocrats, suspicious behavior by a suspect, the unlikeliest of characters revealed to be the culprit and the disclosure happening in a room full of all the characters (or whoever is remaining after the crime). And yes, how can I forget the detective and his/her sidekick. With this book, however, Christie took liberties and changed the conventional way of murder mystery writing. In her own words, “Ten people had to die without it becoming ridiculous or the murderer being obvious.” She followed none of the mentioned stereotypes and succeeded beautifully. Christie’s explanations behind the crime and the criminal are always so practical and logical, that it seems that nothing else could have been possible but this. With the lack of forensic aid and tools that we have today, what she wrote back then and how she included simple objects and clues in her stories which made all the difference, can only be birthed by a true talent. But with all that is good, comes something that remains amiss. The beginning seemed too much to handle, with the introduction of characters in the blink of an eye, it was hard to keep track. And as I was getting a grasp on the characters, they started to drop dead, just like that. Our author doesn’t procrastinate. It won’t be wrong to say that the character building was not at all what I had expected, it was just short of what I would call acceptable. A little more background detail and a little more heart-to-heart between the inhabitants of Soldier Island would have only fueled my appetite for more. For me, it lacked that connection with the characters I usually want to feel in the books I read. The story, undoubtedly, is fast-paced, and so is the death that comes upon.
With all that the book has to offer, what stuck out most for me was the guilt and justice. What makes one guilty to others and not to themselves? Can the actions of oneself, righteous or not, make one guilty of killing someone? And can just acting as per own nature and being a prude, qualify? How does someone not feel guilty and yet, others do? Are we supposed to give out judgments on them? Why and how? The story is a dark psychological thriller at its best. Showing a mirror to everyone who reads it, look within yourself, and see if you can consider yourself not guilty. And if guilty, then how deep and cold it runs. Playing with minds is what it does, leaving one to speculate more than what is written. Do you think you are guiltless?1 like