Goodreads: And Then There Were None
First, there were ten – a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.
My primary criterion for determining whether a mystery is good is whether I had a difficult time solving the crime (within fair boundaries; the author has to provide enough clues that it would theoretically be possible for a careful reader to figure out what’s going on). And Then There Were None is only the second Agatha Christie book I have read, but she delivers complex mysteries in a way I haven’t encountered from any other author. (Though I suppose the disclaimer here is that I read only a modest amount of mysteries to begin with.)
A friend recommended this book to me, informing me that he had not cracked the case. Apparently this is common, and Christie got some irate letters from fans during her lifetime, claiming that the whole thing was unfair and impossible to solve. The truth is that Christie does provide enough clues for one to go on, but, wow, this book is tough. I only pieced together a reasonable working theory based on some prodding and hints from my friend. Left to my own devices, I might have sat around, delaying reading the end of the book until I came up with a satisfactory solution, for a good week or so. As it was, I basically threw out a theory I thought was alright but probably wrong, then tossed up my hands and let Christie tell me how the whole thing had been done. If I wanted to come up with a theory I was more certain of, I’d probably have had to reread the book.
So, yes, I was impressed.
Other than that, the book has a good cast of characters. Christie (again, based on the whole two books of hers I have read) seems to have a penchant for throwing together a largish cast of dissimilar characters; minor characters often remark that the group is diverse, spanning different social classes and professions. This adds some variety to the book, and often some clues, if having money or social connections might make a difference as to which characters would have the means to commit certain crimes. Christie does seem to rely on character tropes sometimes, but this does not really bother me. Again, I’m really reading for the mystery, not in-depth character studies.
I think I’m quickly becoming an Agatha Christie fan after reading And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express, and I’m planning to pick up more of her books in the future.