Book of the Month March 2014: And Then There Were None

TuppenceTuppence City of London, United Kingdom
This month the AC Book Club is reading And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie's classic masterpiece.

Whether you're re-reading this or picking it up for the first time, leave your comments, thoughts, ideas and questions here.

Was this your first Agatha Christie? How do you think it compares to her other novels? What are your thoughts on the new TV adaptation coming in 2015?


  • edited March 2014
    I read this book after reading around 20 of Agatha Christie's books. I had read that TTWN had rather a shocking end. But I knew nothing else about the book. I'm glad that I didn't know very much, as the whole story was a complete surprise to me.

    This is a strong contender for my absolute favourite Agatha Christie book.  There isn't a single thing about it that I would change. When I began to read it, I became completely engrossed in the story. I became annoyed when I had to put the book down! I just wanted to find out what was going to happen. Who was UN Owen?

     I've written on this forum before, about people's perceptions of Agatha Christie being someone who wrote "cosy crime fiction". I think this book is an example that she was capable of so much more than that. The suspense in the book is electric. I was on the edge of my seat reading it. Even after I'd finished it, I was still stunned. 

    All of the people on the island had secrets. but I found Vera the most interesting. If I'd gone through what she had, I'd have locked myself in my room and not come out- ever! She was brave but always so hardened and unrepentant. 

    As for whodunnit, I didn't guess. Nor  would I have ever have guessed it!. It's too clever.

    I've seen the black and white film And Then There Were None 1945. It's a very good film, it has suspense but also some dark humour. It's a similar vein to Ealing comedies like Kind Hearts And Coronets.  But they must have felt the end had to be altered, to make it less shocking. 

    Ive also seen the Ten Little Indians film made in the 70's.  I liked this film much less than the older version. It had annoying music, it was slow. Some of the acting was a little bland. I don't know why Miss Emily Blunt and other characters were altered.  Also it had the "happier" ending. The desert setting was interesting. But part of it didn't fit the nursery rhyme about the fish i.e sea. 

    So I welcome a re-make. But I hoping that the cast will be chosen very carefully. Also I'd love the film to be set during the time period of the book. Also the book is perfect, so I don't think they need to change anything. 

  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I think this was one of the last Books I read, perhaps because the solution is very well known like Murder On The Orient Express, I can only remember watching 2 versions, the one with Fabian and the one Miss Qin mentions which I watched about two weeks ago for the 2nd time, I wondered why so many Characters were altered but I liked the ending which was used, we are due a remake and expect it will be as good as The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps which The BBC have done in recent years, I loved those so I expect I will like this.
  • Surely, this is the most valuable work of the author. She brings a whole killer thriller with amazing touches of drama. It's perfect!
  • It's my favorite and I do agree that it's her masterpiece.
    It's that kind of books that you can read it many times and surprise you each time you read it !
    I haven't seen any of the two movies made but I'd love too , and wondering where can I find them ?
  • I love this book though it is not my favourite, that title goes to "Sleeping Murder".

    I read ATTWN while in high school and it still remains a firm favourite.

    I read it late at night and had a bad dream that my dad had to wake me from as I was dreaming that I was Vera locked in my room and someone was outside the door. I remember being terrified and Dad telling me how I was screaming.

    So this book really made an impression on me.

  • StuartBarnettStuartBarnett Connecticut, United States
    What I find interesting about ATTWN is the meditation on the limits of the law. If these people are guilty--and it certainly seems that they are--then the killing of them is only murder because it is not done by a representative of the law. It is the paradoxical exception the law makes for itself: only it can incarcerate, kill and have others kill. Thus, after a lifetime of "legal murder," Wargrave is utterly logical in concluding that for these killings he must die. It is strangely similar to Curtain. Without any proof or "smoking gun" Poirot is forced to murder. Interestingly, both Poirot and Wargrave end up with the "mark of Cain" bullet wound. 
  • ChristeryChristery Rhode Island, United States
    I agree with the line - " If you only read one Christie, this is the one." It is just a classic example of a Whodunnit Mystery novel and Christie really outdid herself with this one. She was at the top of her game and you can tell that she put a lot of thought and planning into the whole plot structure and themes of the book. It is used in many High School English classes and rightfully so. I'm sure this one book has hooked many a young or new-to-mystery reader encouraging them to read more. It was not my first Christie ( more like my 7th or 8th), but I do remember the excitement of reading it. As others have said, each chapter seemed to pull you along, raising the tension and edge-of-your-seat excitement until you could not put the book down and would probably stay up all night to continue reading it. And the ending is an out-of-left field stunner that no one can see coming ahead of time! A very classic yet unique book. As far as movie adaptations, I have not seen any of the old ones and look forward eagerly to a new one, as long as, as others have said, they stick very closely to the original plot and setting and don't try to tinker and change it. It's perfect just the way it is!
  • loismeeloismee West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
    I found this book enthralling at each twist and turn. I actually read the book after seeing it performed by the Agatha Christie Theatre Company, and despite already knowing the solution, the story was so beautifully crafted that I found myself unable to put the book down. 

    I have re-read the book now a number of times, and it remains one of my favourites. 
  • this was the book which leaves a thrill in my mind, through the happenings in the story. because of this, i am now into reading mystery books.  :D i so love it.
  • miss_mysterymiss_mystery Essex, United Kingdom
    i love this book, it one of my favourites books, with a big twist at the end, keeps you guessing until the end of the book who the killer is. i have seen the movie adaptations of the book they are fine but to me the book is the best thing, but i am looking forward to seeing how the bbc does this book and see how faithful they going to be to the original story. 
  • PenguinPenguin Wisconsin, United States
    None of the movie adaptations do the book justice and I welcome a new adaptation that does the story in a more accurate light. ATTWN was my first Christie and therefore holds a special place in my heart out of all the books. I would be overjoyed to see a better adaptation of the book.
  • The fear factor is one of the best literary devices used in this novel. Right from the outset there is a sense of impending doom. The murder does not come as a bolt from the blue. AC creates a backdrop of fear, The settings, the people , the ambience are not the cosy community life, where murder creeps up and catches you unaware. What is remarkable about this book is that fear is almost a tangible thing.The verbal scene painting is so skillful and vivid that there is no distance between the characters and the reader. We are not engaged in a pleasurable thrill of a vacation read; we are there on the island ; breathing in the horror.
  • erfacererfacer Tameside, United Kingdom

    Thais is my absolute favourite Christie, possibly even my favourite book!! I really didn't see the ending coming, and i still love the ending even though i now know what's going to happen. I really hope this version will be a good one, because the others I’ve seen change the ending - which is one of the best bits!

  • Christie had an all too human fascination with "Justice vs. Right"; a theme seen in scores of her books but most notably Murder on the Orient Express and Curtain. It's interesting to me that this is the predominate theme in this book. I like the way the characters walk a line of having made heinous choices but also being somewhat sympathetic people in their deaths. That's a neat trick to write. There is also a surplus of arrogance, none more so than that of the Judge. The final solution is ingenious; justice has been served according to the murderer, and it is a perfect, and unsolvable series of crimes. I loved this book; it is the first Christie I ever read, at 13. It was chilling and scary and mind-bending and fostered my life-long love of her work.
  • anskovanskov Izmir, Turkey
    This is the book that got me into reading Christie. I loved it so much that I suggested it as our all-school read two years ago at the school in which I taught. The tone is so much darker than her other novels (I love that they all are eating tongue by the end). One of my favorite passages is the chapter where there are five of them left and they are having lunch and it goes in and out from their table conversation to the thoughts in their head but you don't know which thought belongs to which character.  I feel that there is so much to discuss in this novel. 

    While there are components of the novel (the original title and some passages) that are undeniably difficult to read because of issues of race, the novel is brilliant. At the risk of sounding un-PC I do think while changing the title to And Then There Were None is an appropriate choice, I don't like the modern tendency to change the words of the novel itself. Soldier boys, while inoffensive, makes the novel less powerful. I actually think the issues of race place the novel in its context of time and also highlight the character of these ten people and their lack of empathy for human life. I'm including links to four video discussions I made on the subject:

    I'd love to get your comments!
  • dsarebootdsareboot Indiana, United States
    I read this novel decades ago, having been hooked on Agatha Christie since age 12, and in 1987 actually played the judge in a community theater version of the play when the actor who was portraying him dropped out ten days before opening night - so this brilliant novel has been a part of my life for a long time!  Sinister, wonderfully well-written, and typical Christie brilliance where you totally fooled and freaked out when you find out who the killer is.  I haven't seen the Russian film version, which supposedly sticks close to the book, but think 1945's And Then There Were None remains the best and most loyal of the film versions - the 1965 version (Ten Little Indians) was passable as atmospheric, but 1974's just messed with the characters WAY too much (though it had some nice creepy moments, including Orson Welles doing the recorded voice of U.N. Owen) ... and all you had to tell me about 1989's version was that Frank Stallone was starring in it, and that was enough to keep me from even seeing it.

    I know Christie changed the ending for the play to make it more "upbeat" I guess - the filmed versions following the same - but do hope this new adaptation is as faithful to the original, incredibly powerful and chilling novel as possible.  

    And the look on the face of Dr. Armstrong in the 1945 film, toward the end of the movie when it's night and they're all going to bed and he looks RIGHT AT the camera before shutting his bedroom door - lamp in hand - still freaks me out so badly, to this day, I can't look at his face when that scene occurs; have to avert my eyes.  
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    It is one of those books by Agatha Christie whereby if you sit in a chair and think about it long enough the solution is obvious, It would have been better If the Murderer had been someone else and with this book it could have quite easily have been if the Murderer hadn't had an accomplice but the Murderer is the only person who could have convinced the Accomplice to assist
  • My favorite line from the 1945 film:  Miss Brent says, "If I had a Butler like Rogers, I'd soon get rid of him."
  • SPOILER!!!  It's interesting that if you look back at the personalities (assuming no one has assumed another personality), there are really only two people who had the psychological makeup to do it!

  • And There Were None was the third and last title of this book. Ten Little Indians was the second title, and the first title Was? Do you know? I have a copy in the first title and was hard to find and get. 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    You know, I had never thought of that Martie Collins but you qare right, as long as you and I are thinking of the same 2 people but we probably are.
  • youngmrquinyoungmrquin Buenos Aires, Argentina
    As I have explained elsewhere, with this book, I'm in the minority. 
    Yes, I started reading AC for recomendations of many people, being my father the most prominent, and whose joy for the author came specially from this tittle. 
    While I agree it's one of her most brilliant works, it's tightly written and the structure that develops seems to be the origin of the "slasher" narratives, I can't find the magic in it everyone else does.
    The most important reason for it is the ending. While the motivations of the killer are orginal, and similar to the ones of Poirot in "Curtain" (like someone in this thread previously pointed out), I feel dissapointed by its ending.


    The fact that the killer schemes to kill people for crimes that have escaped the power of formal justice makes him still a villain in my mind. I don't want to be moralistic, and I wouldn't mind the trope "the bad guy wins" in a book, but it does bother me that he himself thinks about him as a devine entity and, even worse, that I don't find at all clear if we, as readers, should see him as a hero or not.
    This particular aspect, that is, the fact that he planned all this horrible deaths and could indeed commit them works for me as an anti-twist, very distant from the AC books I have most enjoyed. In other words, yes, it was obvious it was one of them, but I wasn't that interested while reading it in knowing his/her identity but to know how he/she was going to be stopped. This situation makes the story, for me, very linear and closed in its own universe. All the time, when it was about to finish, I was hoping that someone, no matters his/her past crimes, turned up to be the good guy who stopped all this. Sadly, that never happened. Sorry, but it's an ending that takes away, in my book, much of the potential the story could have had.

  • that_girl_againthat_girl_again Tamil Nadu, India
    Undoubtedly one of her best books, ATTWN has all the elements of a "perfect" mystery book. The minute I started reading the first chapter I figured this book was going to be one of my favorites. The way she transforms a harmless childish poem into a full on mystery is just breath taking. Although some of the deaths were predictable , the end was definitely worth the read.With this book she has cemented her place in this genre. I would definitely recommend this book to not only her fans but also anyone who is interested in the mystery genre. My first favorite is ,of course,murder on the orient express. I'm a ardent fan of Hercule Poirot. So the fact that she could spin a mystery without him is truly the mark of a wonderful artist. Although I had the urge to just skip to the last few pages because I couldn't contain my excitement ( this happens for pretty much all of her works) i read through patiently just to marvel at her beautiful construction of the mystery.
  • Christopher_WrenChristopher_Wren Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
    @youngmrquin: Agatha Christie rewrote the ending for her stage play. The plays and most movies have exactly the ending you are hoping for. I prefer the book's ending, though.


    That the killer thinks of himself as a "divine judge" doesn't bother me at all. He's a madman after all. And frankly, some of these people aren't murderers at all. While I found Miss Brent probably the most unsympathetic character in the novel, she didn't kill anyone and also didn't know that her servant girl would commit suicide. So it's not, that it's reasonable, that the judge put a death sentence on her head.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Youngmrquin, I agree with you, It is a good book and better than some but it isn't as good IMHO as people are saying, I prefer the Play's Ending
  • youngmrquinyoungmrquin Buenos Aires, Argentina
    edited March 2014
    I'll try to be more clear. It's not just that he thinks about himself as a devine judge, because we have seen other murders in AC books that were much more scarier and sinister in his/her mind than this one.
    It's precisely the situation you mention then, both in its ethical and literary aspects: that he is a madman, that it's questionable the culpability of some of his victims and yet they are horrible killed, with the pretense that they were killers; or even those who really were, with the pretense that they deserved to be killed.
    Furthermore, the fact that he basically achieves this and nobody can even discover his identity (let alone, stop him) hurts seriously the book for me. That the person who was doing all this is a madman and is one of the characters is something obvious from the beginning. It's also to see coming that the song will be used in a creepy way and the murders will resemble it in a metaphorical way.
    That said, where is Agatha's classic twist in the end? Someone evil plans something horrible, and he goes away with it? Sorry, while I consider it a great work, it doesn't top in mi ranking A murder is announced or The Pale Horse, just to name a few.
  • In And Then There Were None, it was interesting that when the men introduced themselves, they looked directly at the camera.


    Another favorite line from Rogers:  "Why would I kill anyone who wasn't going to leave me any money?"

  • Christopher_WrenChristopher_Wren Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
    That said, where is Agatha's classic twist in the end? Someone evil plans something horrible, and he goes away with it?  
    Actually, I think that was the twist. When reading it for the first time, I am sure most people expected the murderer to be stopped, because they always get stopped in books. And when it doesn't happen, that was the surprise. I can understand your concern, that the killer almost seems to be treated as the hero of the story, I really do. But judging it by the twist, it's a much bigger one, than one or two people getting away and living happily ever after, which is the much more stereotypical ending.
  • There have been around 7 or 8 remakes of this, but most were not very good, except a Russian version (Desyat Negrityat) which is excellent. It ends exactly as the book does, instead of the sugar-coated ending of the play and the other movies. It comes with English subtitles,and is absolutely the best film version of the story. 

  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

    I didn't think it was a twist, It would have been impossible to have a really big twist as whoever the Murderer was would have been someone the reader thought was dead, the only twist there could have been is if the man who brought some over was the Murderer, Thinking about it I would also why the Murderer chose those people to kill when there were probably loads of people they could have chosen.

    I must be hard hearted I don't find the book scary perhaps because the solution is so well-known, I recently bought the Audio Cassette and with the music and a Narrater I found that much more scary

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