Review: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were NoneAnd Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

And Then There Were None is an old-school murder mystery novel in the truest sense: it was originally published in 1939, and, of course, is written by mystery great Agatha Christie.

It’s interesting to see how some writing tropes have changed in 75 years: things like dialogue placement and word tense are pretty different. In fact, I doubt a modern publisher would give “And Then There Were None” a close look because of those differences, despite the interesting story.

The set-up is this: 10 strangers are called to a mansion in an isolated island, whereupon a gramophone announces that each is accused of murder in some way. And then, one by one, the visitors are killed off, while the survivors scramble to figure out who could have done it, why, and who is next.

In that, it feels a lot like Clue: The Movie; there’s a lot of scrambling about from room to room, trying to guess at straws. Much like Clue, it also features all manners of death, so you never know what will come next. I actually looked to see if Clue was inspired by this book–it looks like no, but there are strong similarities.

However, when you reach the end, we lose the similarities.

(Spoilers to follow)

Because this book does not conform to the mystery structure we’ve all come to know: no one figures it out and saves the day. In fact, the police arrive a full 24 hours after the last victim has died, and leave without having figured it out. It isn’t until the epilogue that anything is explained, and–well, honestly, I think Christie may have cheated the reader some. I don’t think the result is truly “guessable”; it’s a rigged game.

That unsatisfactory ending was a disappointment to me, but it is a good lesson that sometimes the old standby structure is there for a reason. And, of course, it’s not wrong to mess with it. Just not something that appealed to me in this case.

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