Monday, August 8, 2011

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

‘Sakhi’ Book Club September 2011 Pick

“It was so difficult to do that the idea had fascinated me…I wrote the book after a tremendous amount of planning, and I was pleased with what I had made of it.”- Agatha Christie on ‘And Then There Were None’

Christie had reason to be gratified with how the book had turned out. First published in 1939 with a much more offensive title, of all the Queen of Mystery’s novels, this was her most popular work, with a hundred million sales. Original in concept, it is also considered among her best.

Ten people of varying backgrounds, most of whom have never met each other, are invited by a mysterious host to Soldier Island. Once there, they realize that they are at the mercy of a malevolent mastermind who knows all too much about them. For unsuspecting as they are, they are far from innocent. Each one has a skeleton rattling in their closet; and their unknown host seems privy to their guiltiest secrets. Very soon, people start to die, in grotesque accordance with a misanthropic and un-childlike rhyme. Who is going to be the last one left standing? Who could have done it?

Christie does not deceive with cheap tricks; she does leave her trail of clues, and all the evidence points to one suspect. Personally, for me, this was less of a whodunit, and more of a how-was-it-done, and that gets harder to configure as the bodies start piling up. Whether the plot stands up to the plausibility test is debatable, but the author astutely anticipates her critics' objections, and deftly parries most queries in the book's epilogue. The long and short of it is, Christie manages to pull off a superb trompe l'oeil on her readers.

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