We're so excited to kick off our Agatha Christie read-along with a discussion of And Then There were None! For those here who have never read this classic Agatha Christie mystery, I advise you to not proceed any further as plot details will be revealed! (And get a copy immediately! You are missing out on one of the cleverest mysteries ever written.)
This must be the fifth time I’ve read And Then There Were None, and it never ceases to hold me captive. I almost missed my train stop because I was too absorbed in the events on Soldier Island. I think that’s one of the best parts of Agatha Christie mysteries—I may have it read it before, but she has this special way of weaving a plot together that I’m always delightfully surprised at the end.
Agatha Christie’s author note at the beginning caught my eye this time around:
“I had written this book because it was so difficult to do that the idea had fascinated me. Ten people had to die without it becoming ridiculous or the murderer being obvious. I wrote the book after a tremendous amount of planning, and I was pleased with what I had made of it. It was clear, straightforward, baffling, and yet had a perfectly reasonable explanation; in fact it had to have an epilogue in order to explain it. It was well received and reviewed, but the person who was really pleased with it was myself, for I knew better than any critic how difficult it had been”
Now let’s discuss what was so pleasing about And Then There Were None.
Questions for discussion - post your answers in the comments section - if you're a blogger and you've posted a review, include that link with your answers.
1- When we first meet the “ten soldiers,” while they may not have been the best group of people, you don’t necessarily wish them ill will. As their pasts are revealed and their true personalities unmasked, did you feel any sympathy for them as a victim of the situation? Do you think that we, the reader, were predisposed to dislike certain characters more and feel sympathy for others?
2- Each soldier was initially defined by their stature or position in life, did that change for any of them as the story progressed, or did they rely more on their roles off the island for survival?
3- One of the themes present throughout And Then There Were None is guilt and the effect it can have on a person. How did each character deal with the guilt of their past crimes? Who handled it the best? And who was the most torn up from it?
4- What did you think of the use of “Ten Little Soldiers” throughout the book, both the poem posted in the bedrooms and the little disappearing figurines on the dining room table? How do they both figure into the story? Do you think the reminder of the “Ten Little Soldiers” poem was necessary throughout the story?
5- If you were trapped on Soldier Island, which character’s behavior would you most identify with and why? If not, what would you have done differently?
6- From the very beginning certain characters are drawn to each other to form alliances in their strange situation—at first Vera and Emily, later Blore, Armstrong, and Lombard, Armstrong and Wargrave, and then Vera and Lombard. What do you think brought them together? How do these alliances affect events?
7- Did you have your own theories about who Unknown was before getting to the “Manuscript Document” and if so, at what point?
8- It’s widely commented that Christie “violated the standard rules of mystery writing” by making it nearly impossible for us to solve the mystery before she explains it to us. How did that make you feel as a reader?
9- As Agatha wrote in her author’s note, the plot was so simple, yet so baffling, that she herself was most pleased with the outcome for having done it. Are there any mysteries from recent years that you think come close to what she accomplished here?
I can't wait to read all of your answers, and please add any thoughts or observations I may not have covered here.
Join us for our discussion of Dead Man’s Folly on July 29th. And be sure to watch the PBS premiere of Dead Man’s Folly on July 28th! Don’t forget to tweet us using #monogrammurders!