My mother got me into reading — specifically, Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. This turned into a lifetime of love of reading fantasy and science fiction novels. My mother’s favorites, however, were always murder-mysteries and she had a special love in her heart for Agatha Christie. She’s read every book Christie published in multiple languages. She had the entire collection in French! Given all of that, it’s quite surprising that I had never read an Agatha Christie novel until recently and I’m so glad I did! These are the “cozy” mysteries I’m always looking for: mildly creepy, well written, and full of atmosphere.
I “read” this via audiobook, narrated by Dan Stevens (who was fantastic by the way!) The plot is simple: ten strangers, 7 men and 3 women, are invited to stay in a secluded island off the coast of Devon by a mysterious benefactor known locally for his extravagant parties. Once they arrive and sit down to dinner, a record plays and accuses each guest of murder. And then the guests start dying off one by one. At first, they think it must be suicide or accidental death, but by the 3rd death it becomes clear that they are being picked off and there’s no way off the island. It’s no spoiler to say that they all die, it’s right there in the title. But the psychology of it is fascinating! What’s even more impressive is that this book was published in 1939, well before psychological thrillers were even a thing! It’s Hitchcock before Hitchcock.
Sadly, it is here that I must also note that this book veers into the weirdly racist and sexist at times. It’s to be expected to a certain degree, but jarring nevertheless. There’s a reference to Jews in the beginning that threw me, and the way the men speak to the women had me bristling. Oh and yeah, the title was originally called ten little n-words after the British blackface song. In the United States, it was published under the current title “And Then There Were None.”
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and plan on reading many more Agatha Christie books. I give it 4.5 stars with an asterisk (see off-putting racism and sexism above). What I loved the most was the ambiance — it felt like I was reading a game of Clue. Despite all the murders I wanted to visit the island and get served morning cocktails while I stared off into the ocean.