"One of us... One of us... One of usThree words, endlessly repeated, dinning themselves hour after hour into receptive brains.Five people - five frightened people. Five people who watched each other, who now hardly troubled to hide their state of nervous tension.There was little pretense now - no formal veneer of conversation. They were five enemies linked together by a mutual instinct of self-preservation."
Why have I waited so long to read Agatha Christie? And Then There Were None, first published as Ten Little Indians in 1939, is a fabulous classic mystery that kept me in suspense until the final page.
Ten strangers receive vague letters summoning them to Soldier Island off the coast of Devon. The host and owner of the island, reportedly an eccentric millionaire, is mysteriously absent upon their arrival and the ten find themselves quite alone. Ten soldier statues, along with copies of the children's rhyme "Ten Little Soldiers", are prominently displayed in the dining room. We learn almost immediately that each visitor has had a nebulous connection with a death at some point in their lives but, with no solid evidence, charges never followed. As the visitors begin to die one by one and according to the rhyme, the soldier figurines also disappear. Eventually, as the title suggests, there are none. Ten dead bodies are discovered on the island.
This story will keep you turning pages, but Christie's skillful writing imparts a gradual, palpable increase in tension. The survivors, certain the murderer is one of them, become more suspicious and afraid as the hours pass.
One piece of advice: allow yourself time to read this novel in just a few sittings. I started it last month as my 'bedtime book' and only read a few pages each night - not a good way to become immersed in a mystery with so many characters. Once it became my primary read, I reached the very satisfying conclusion (which I did not come close to figuring out ahead of time) in just a couple of days. I will reread this novel at some point and look for the clues I missed.
There will definitely be more Agatha Christie in my future. Do you have a favorite to recommend?