Thoughts on “And Then There Were None”

“Remington Steele” referenced it at least twice, once directly and once by naming most of the characters after the characters in the book. I hadn’t read it, I think, since it was actually read to my class in grade school. Put that all together and I was inspired to buy and read Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”, which in the modern-style removes all references to Indians and replaces them with Soldiers … which doesn’t in any way change the impact of the book.

Of course, I know how it all ends, and pretty much all of the twists. So I wasn’t going to be able to read it to enjoy those again. So I decided that I’d focus on seeing what was interesting to me knowing how it all turns out.

One thing that was interesting is that Christie drops a lot of hints as to who the killer is outside of the ones listed at the end. As stated on TV Tropes — I’ll spare you the link — a lot of Wargraves’ inner thoughts are ones that at first blush look like an innocent person but in hindsight are really indications of his real status. In the beginning, for example, he re-reads the note he “received” and notes that it does sound exactly like what that person would say or do, which can be seen as him re-reading it to assess whether the odd invitation is credible, as some of the others were doing. In hindsight, though, it’s an assessment over whether his situation will seem credible and almost congratulation himself on coming up with such a good ruse. And this is important to him, since some of the people invited moved in the same circles as the person who purportedly invited him and so it has to seem believable … a fact that Christie highlights by having there be a minor family connection revealed in the initial conversations and referenced again later. There’s also a number of references to Wargraves looking reptilian or predatory, things that it might seem odd at first but could reflect his “hanging judge” personality but which also, later, can be seen as hints that he might be the murderer.

It’s also easy to see why the play, when it has people survive, has those two be Vera and Lombard. As the last two left on the island, that’s obviously made easier, but Christie herself seems to treat them the most sympathetically. Vera’s the most obvious — and it’s pretty easy to explain her thoughts as misplaced guilt — but Lombard is also portrayed in a manner that would incline us towards him. Outside of Wargraves, he’s the smartest and comes up with the most ideas, and also takes the most direct actions. Everyone else is either passive or annoying or both. Blore is probably the biggest example of this as despite being a police inspector he’s portrayed as being dreadfully unimaginative and needlessly and often ridiculously confrontational. Lombard’s crime is also one that shows at worst his survival instinct and a disdain for native people that, well, most people at the time probably also felt, whereas the others tended to be either careless, self-interested or cruel. Lombard would have died if he hadn’t done what he did, but none of the others had such an excuse.

Overall, it is an interesting and well-written book, one of the better ones of the genre. Of course, it is far less interesting when you know the ending or, rather, when you know exactly how the murderer did manage to be the murderer. Which I haven’t told you, so you might get some interest out of the book yet. Just don’t watch “Remington Steele” first.

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