And Then There Were None Summary

Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None

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And Then There Were None Summary

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Written in 1939, And Then There Were None is often considered to be Agatha Christie’s greatest novel, rivaled only by her 1926 classic The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Through the tale of ten strangers trapped on a mysterious and perilous island, it explores themes of guilt, suspicion, and the application of justice. The novel begins with eight characters traveling towards Indian Island. They do not know one another and each of them has a different reason for coming to the island, ranging from being employed by the island’s mysterious owner A. N. Owen to responding to invites apparently sent by old friends. In the big house on the island, they meet Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, who work as butler and cook, respectively, and discover a nursery rhyme hanging in each of their bedrooms telling the tale of “Ten Little Indians” who die, one after the other, from a variety of causes. When they sit down to their first dinner together, they also notice ten china figurines of Indians on the dining room table.

After dinner, the guests are startled when a distorted, disembodied voice suddenly accuses them each of murder, providing the dates and details of specific incidents in which a life was lost. Mrs. Rogers, who was accused of helping her husband kill their former employer, faints and is helped to her bed while the guests search the house. They eventually trace the voice to an old wind-up gramophone and Mr. Rogers admits that he had activated the gramophone as ordered in a letter from his employer, but claims that he did not know what it would play.  One of the guests, a judge named Justice Wargrave, points out that “U. N. Owen” sounds a lot like “unknown” and speculates that a psychopathic killer must have brought them all to the island. Panicked, the guests each deny the accusations made against them, acknowledging that they were present at the incidents but were not, for a variety of reasons, responsible for the deaths. When the others agree to leave on the first available boat, one guest, Anthony Marston, argues they should stay and solve the mystery. However, he suddenly begins to choke on his drink and dies. The guests conclude that Marston must have committed suicide as no one else could have poisoned his drink, and they retire to bed.

Before he goes to bed, Mr. Rogers notices that one of the figurines is missing. In the night, he discovers that his wife cannot wake up and one of the guests, Dr. Armstrong, confirms that she was poisoned. The next morning, Mr. Rogers discovers that another figurine has been taken. The guests soon become suspicious of each other, variously suggesting that some of the party are not only guilty of the murders of which the voice accused them, but are also involved with the new deaths occurring on the island. As a storm arrives, trapping them on the island, the guests discover that General Macarthur, an aged military man, has been bludgeoned to death. They also notice that another figurine is missing and Mr. Rogers locks the dining room so they cannot be tampered with further.

The next morning, the guests are startled to find that Mr. Rogers is not present but the dining has been unlocked and a figurine has been broken. They then find that Mr. Rogers was killed while out chopping wood. A severe, religious woman, Emily Brent begins to panic about the next death predicted in “Ten Little Indians,” which involves fatal bee stings. Later on, she feels a stab like a bee sting and the other guests discover that she has been murdered with cyanide injected with a hypodermic needle. Dr. Armstrong says that, as a professional, he always carries a hypodermic needle and they discover that his is, in fact, missing. They then discover that a pistol belonging to another guest, Philip Lombard, is also missing.

Too suspicious to sit with the others, Vera Claythorne, a governess, goes to take a bath but panics, believing someone is strangling her. Her screams bring the other guests running and, for a short while, they believe they have averted a murder. However, when they return downstairs, they find Justice Wargrave dead of a gunshot wound to the head. That night, Lombard finds his pistol in his bedside draw, and Vera sees a large, black hook on the ceiling of her room that she had not previously noticed.

When they discover that Dr. Armstrong has left his room, Vera, Lombard, and the final guest, an ex-detective named Mr. Blore, conclude that he must be the murderer and redouble their efforts to get off the island. When Mr. Blore is bludgeoned to death, Vera and Lombard presume Dr. Armstrong killed him. However, they then find the doctor’s drowned body washed up on the shore. Assuming that Lombard must therefore be the murderer, Vera shoots him with his own pistol before returning to her room to find a noose hanging from the ceiling hook. Shocked, grieving, and guilty, Vera hangs herself. Later, investigating detectives are baffled by the ten deaths until a letter in a bottle washes up on the shore. The letter’s author explains that he wanted to bring the guests to justice for the crimes they had committed. The letter also reveals that Justice Wargrave’s death was faked but claims that the author will shoot himself after signing the confession. Finally, the letter’s signature reveals that the person confessing to the murders and preparing to shoot himself is Justice Wargrave.

Although, in some respects, it moves away from Christie’s usual detective fiction, And Then There Were None is widely considered to be one of her best works, and is often celebrated for its impressive characterization and the intricacy and inventiveness of its plot. The novel’s legacy includes numerous theatre, radio, and cinema adaptations (including a 1943 play written by Christie) as well as countless parodies that range from an episode of Family Guy to a 1976 Broadway musical.