If things go as anticipated with my upcoming reading schedule, this and my next book in this self-fashioned classics challenge will actually be re-reads. This is my second time reading the Queen of Crime’s And Then There Were None, but I’ve been a big fan of the story since I first saw the 1945 movie version as a child. (I mean, I watched it in the 90s. I wasn’t a child during World War II. I’m not a vampire.) (That’s a hint about the classic I’m reading next.)
Anyhow, once I got a little older and realized movies were sometimes based on books (or, perhaps more accurately, stage plays with much happier endings), I was overjoyed, and I dove into Agatha Christie’s great mystery with abandon.
And I hated it.
Who was this “Hugo” Vera kept going on about? What were those deeper discussions of guilt and innocence? Why were they all eating tongue?? And what do you mean everyone dies?
When it comes right down to it, I was a little too young (and blinded by my Vera/Lombard shipping) to properly enjoy And Then There Were None in book form. But I’m happy to report that upon this re-read, on the heels of watching the BBC One/Lifetime (strange bedfellows, hm?) miniseries adaptation, my brain was fully developed and I was better able to embrace the Christie genius. God save the Queen.
And Then There Were None, published under an assortment of alternate titles that all seem to feature a derogatory term for a minority group, is, on the surface, a precursor to the modern 90s teen slasher flick, complete with an unseen — but haunting — killer, a bumbling detective, drama, infighting, barely restrained lust (at least for me), and a Final Girl. Ten strangers come together in a beautiful house on a creepy remote island — eight guests and two servants hired to help — and beginning on their very first night, they’re picked off one-by-one in murders mimicking the creepy nursery rhyme that’s framed on the wall in every single room.
Beneath that, it’s also a meditation on madness, good and evil, and the justice system as a whole. What happens when ten strangers, picked to live in a house, stop being polite and start getting real (dead)? The questions get bigger than a simple, “Are you guilty?” and dig into the who, the how, the why — and the would you kill again? Beyond the mystery and the psychological explorations, Christie expertly captures England in 1939, a stiff-upper-lip place on the brink of a second world war, and yet an innocent place, where ten strangers will show up simply because a friend wrote them a note and invited them. It would be improper to turn down the invitation, of course, though one assumes murdering one’s guests isn’t the height of decorum, either.
For those who haven’t enjoyed the book, any of the multimedia adaptations, or Aidan Turner’s abs, I won’t spoil the ending. But I will say that the mystery is clever and the book itself is sprinkled with sass and humor that wouldn’t be out of character in a novel today. I thoroughly enjoyed heading back to Indian/Soldier Island, and that damn song will be stuck in my head for months to come. Ten little soldier boys…
I’ll be re-re-reading this one again very soon.
#Classics2016 Count: 3