Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

July Books 13) And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

Sir Thomas Legge said: “Damn it all, Maine, somebody must have killed 'em.”
“That's just our problem, sir.”
“Nothing helpful in the doctor's report?”
“No, sir.”
I'm getting a bit bored with Lovejoy as my bedtime reading and might give Agatha Christie a try, working scientifically through her books in order of popularity until I get tired.

I went through an Agatha Christie phase when I was about 13 and had read And Then There Were None at that time. It's quite far from the normal format of murder mystery: ten people on an isolated island (whose name varies with the edition of the book), all invited because of a fatal incident in their personal past, are bumped off one by one. One of the ten must be the murderer; but who? The solution is just barely credible in the context of the story (requires some impressive good luck from the murderer, and failure to observe some obvious clues from his victims). But it is tautly constructed, and must have been very appealing when first published in late 1939 - no mention of the imminent war, but the previous war's shadow lies across all the characters.

The book is of course notorious for the racism of its original title. It's interesting that the two characters, who become the (largely sympathetic) viewpoint for the climax of the story proper, are also the most obviously racist - one of them has explicitly carried out a racist multiple murder as a colonial officer in Africa, the other is the only person to defend him. But it's also interesting that the murder confesses to inflicting "prolonged mental strain and fear" on "the more cold-blooded offenders" who die last, so the author's message is ambiguous. There's a much less ambigous anti-Semitism directed at a minor character, which is not queried in the same way.

I shall persevere with this project. Murder on the Orient Express is next, and I haven't read it or seen any of the screen adaptations (though, thanks to the spoilers generally abounding in popular culture, I do know whodunnit).
Tags: bookblog 2013, writer: agatha christie
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