Sunday, June 11, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Haven't been finding a lot of romance titles that catch my eye so took a little break with this famous mystery...

3 Stars

And the killer is…

Just kidding! This is a mystery novel so this review is spoiler free.

Ten strangers are enticed to a semi-remote British island home for what appears to be a social vacation only to find there is a far more nefarious purpose behind the vague and deceptive invitations.  

Set during the 1930’s, the book is a bit of a product of its time thus depicting in places various sexist, racist, and bigoted attitudes and conventions. (Even the story’s previous titles are offensive.) None of the characters are ultimately sympathetic. They are stereotypical, under developed, and flat, though no doubt done purposely.  That being established, I won’t say it didn’t interfere with my ability to feel completely satisfied with the ending/final reveal. It also caused some difficulty holding my interest in the opening chapters and keeping the characters (or suspects) straight.

This is predominantly a plot driven novel. At a certain point, I couldn’t put it down if for nothing else than to find out who was the next victim and how it was all being played out.  Following the disturbing tone of the poem/ nursery rhythm, the suspense plot is well crafted with apt use of foreshadowing. (I must have flipped back to that poem a dozen times!) But there's a vast amount of suspension of disbelief required to accept the execution (no pun intended) of the murders in the order and fashion of the poem, which is posted in every room of the house for the victims to read, and thus avoid if they had any sense. These characters have the foresight and self-preservation qualities of a slasher film victim.  In fact, the 1986 horror satire, April Fool's Day is based on the premise. 

Contemporary readers could also easily draw comparisons and similarities to popular culture production such as the TV series Lost and the movie version of the board game Clue. Most notably, (aside from the obvious settings and premise) the tale poses certain philosophical questions like Lost but does not offer that superior level of character development, while creating an engaging who-done-it puzzle like Clue but minus the quirky, comical qualities. 

Stylistically, the story also draws on gothic fiction elements to weave its suspenseful and macabre tale.  
“There was something magical about an island—the mere word suggested fantasy. You lost touch with the world—an island was a world of its own. A world, perhaps, from which you may never return.”
Typical and often necessary with mysteries, this book is written in the 3rd person to which I’ll admit I’m not a fan of that POV. This is also the first book I’ve ever read of Agatha Christie, and since not previously familiar with her writing style, I was rather surprised by the choppy nature for such a renowned author. Too many sentences with “She said:” and “He thought:” type of dialogue and narration kept the writing far from smooth. 

The perseverance of this novel no doubt lies in the numerous other works it inspired (many of which improved upon the quality) making it a pop icon rather than a literary masterpiece.  None the less, it is an intriguing little riddle to spend a few hours with. Despite its dark nature, this mystery thriller is unlikely to inspire too much anxiety.  Might even make a make a good lazy day or relaxing beach read.

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