Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel And Then There Were None somewhat took over my life last week. The book arrived late Tuesday afternoon. Little did I know I would have completed the novel 24 hours later. And by Wednesday evening I was searching for the BBC adaption of this amazing tale.
My Introduction to Agatha Christie
I was a small child when I was first introduced to Agatha Christie through the power of TV. My love of mysteries began watching David Suchet’s wonderful portrayal of one of Christie’s most beloved characters, Hercule Poirot.
As I matured I also came to love another character created from Christie’s active imagination – Miss Marple. Both of Miss Marple and Poirot are still watched and enjoyed today in my home by myself, my husband and now my children.
As a child, I was totally ignorant of the fact that these wonderful ITV adaptations were based on Agatha Christie’s novels. (Or else I would have read her novels back then). As I learned more about this wonderful author, I discovered just how prolific of a writer she actually was.
Who Was Agatha Christie?
Born in 1890, Agatha Christie authored a staggering total of 89 novels and over 100 short stories. She is acknowledged by the Guinness World Records as the best selling novelist of her era. Her books have sold over 1 billion copies in English and her works have been translated into 103 languages. A full list of Christie’s works can be found here.
The budding novelist was born into a wealthy middle-class family who ensured their daughters were well educated. Following her father’s death in 1901, Agatha was sent to finishing school.
She returned home in 1910 as her mother’s health deteriorated and the pair travelled to Cairo – a popular destination for wealthy British tourists. Upon their return, Agatha began to write and continued to write until her death in 1976. Agatha married Archie Christie in 1914, it was perhaps an unhappy marriage, for Archie was known to take mistresses. Agatha was far happier in her second marriage to Sir Max Mallowan who she wed in 1930. The couple remained married until Agatha’s death.
Agatha was able to draw upon her own life experiences when creating her masterpieces. For instance, Agatha worked as a voluntary nurse during the First World War. This gave her an insight into medicines and medical practices which feature prominently in her novels. Her knowledge of medicines and poisons developed during her time as a pharmacy assistant during the Second World War.
Agatha’s second husband, Sir Max Mallowan was a successful archaeologist. Agatha accompanied her husband on various excavations and visited exotic places, such as Syria and Greece. She was able to draw upon these experience when writing novels such as Murder in Mesopotamia and Death on the Nile.
The Disappearance of Agatha Christie
On 3rd December 1926, Agatha was a successful author. She was at the pinnacle of her career, married with a 7-year-old daughter. Yet that evening, she disappeared. Her car was found abandoned on the roadside but there was no sign of Agatha. The mystery seemed to come directly from one of the pages of Christie’s novels.
The press relished in the enigma. Was Agatha dead? There was no trace of her, she had simply disappeared. Agatha’s fellow mystery writers had been called in to help – Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries was at a loss, as we were the police and national search teams. It was the biggest manhunt of the decade!
11 days later, a musician working in a hotel in Harrogate recognised one of the guests of the missing Agatha and notified the authorities. It was soon discovered that Agatha had checked into the hotel under the name of
Theresa Neele – her husband’s mistress.
Archie claimed his wife has suffered a loss of memory to explain the enigma. Was Agatha distressed with her first husband’s promiscuity and had simply had enough? She certainly divorced him two years later. Some suggested the incident was a huge publicity stunt designed to increase Agatha’s notoriety. However, Agatha was an incredibly successful author at this time. Agatha never did reveal the details of her mysterious disappearance and the event is still surrounded with questions to this day.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Agatha was certainly apt at creating mysteries within her novels, as well as creating them in her own life. And Then There Were None was described by the author as her most difficult novel to write. The plot is incredibly complicated, yet somehow easy to read.
The novel begins with 10 strangers, invited to ‘Solider Island’, a small isolated island off the coast of Devon. All the characters are invited by a Mr or Mrs Owen who own the only house on the island. The reasons for their coming to the island are very individual. Some are employed to work in the house, others are invited to take a holiday.
Yet who are Mr and Mrs Owens? None of the guests seem to know them at all. And who actually owns the island? In each room of the home, a poem hangs upon the wall.
Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in half and then there were six.
Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive;
A bee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Soldier Boys going in for law;
One got in the Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
As the plot thickens, the true reasons for the invitations are soon exposed. Who is the murderer? Is it one of the guests? Mr or Mrs Owens? Or someone else entirely?
A Recommended Read
I thoroughly enjoyed reading And Then There Were None, so much so that I literally could not put this book down. It’s the greatest ‘who done it’ I have ever read.
After reading this novel, I simply had to watch the BBC adaptation of And Then There Were None. Surprisingly, the 3 part TV series was excellent and stayed close to the original story-line (although there were some minor differences).
Find more posts in my Reading the Classics series here.