And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Everyone is talking about Soldier Island. The owner and builder of a lavish home on the private island has recently died, and newspaper articles contain speculation about a mystery buyer. Ten strangers from diverse backgrounds receive invitations to visit Soldier Island, most of which are signed by Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owen. The recipients don’t recognize their hosts’ names but attend nonetheless.
A boatman ferries the guests to Soldier Island from the mainland. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers are already present, having been hired by Mr. Owen to run the household. As the other guests settle into their rooms, they question Mr. and Mrs. Rogers about the mysterious host and hostess.
The Rogers admit they only arrived a few days earlier and have never met the Owen family. The guests comment on the strange poem hanging in each of their rooms. It’s a child’s rhyme about 10 little soldier boys who die one by one.
The company assembles in a room after dinner. Their conversations halt when an ominous, disembodied voice accuses each of them, one by one, of a past crimes. Anthony Marston, a fast-driving playboy, is charged with a hit and run involving two children. The voice accuses Mr. and Mrs. Rogers of withholding medicine from a former employer and hastening her death. General MacArthur, a retired World War I hero, is reproached for the murder of his wife’s lover. Judgmental, elderly spinster Emily Brent is implicated in the suicide of a single, pregnant employee. Dr. Armstrong is accused of being drunk and losing a patient on the operating table. Detective and former police inspector William Blore is charged with falsifying testimony in court. This led to the death of an innocent man. Philip Lombard, down to his last dime, has come to Soldier Island to perform a yet unspecified job. He once stole food from and abandoned some African tribesmen serving as his guides. The voice charges him with their deaths. Vera Claythorne has accepted a temporary secretarial position with the Owens family. The young woman allegedly allowed a little boy to drown so his uncle, her beloved, could inherit the family fortune. Retired Justice Wargrave supposedly sentenced an innocent man to death.
The accusations leave the guests shocked. They confess little to one another, but the reader learns the charges against each of them are true. The guests discover the indictments were prerecorded and played on a phonograph in the next room. They wonder who set the record player in motion, since they believe they are the only ones on the island.
Shortly after this incident, guests begin dying. A tray in one of the rooms displays 10 soldier figurines. One disappears each time someone dies. Each person perishes in the manner and order of a soldier boy in the poem.
After the first few guests have been killed, the remaining ones begin to panic. They’re more concerned when they realize the boatman, their one link from the island to the mainland, isn’t coming. They determine U.N. Owen is a fake name the killer used because it sounds like “unknown.”
When they’re certain there is no one else on the island, they start to become suspicious of one another. They watch each other carefully, form alliances, search each other’s rooms and lock away all weapons and medications. Their efforts are futile. Soon, the final guest has hanged herself with a noose left by the killer.
When the boatman arrives back at the island a day or so later, he discovers 10 dead bodies. The police are perplexed. The mystery is only solved after they find a message in a bottle at sea containing a confession. Justice Wargrave admits he always wanted to kill someone but had too much respect for the law to murder the innocent.
When he learned he was terminally ill, he sought out nine people who had never had to pay for crimes they’d committed. Then he lured them to Soldier Island. He explains how he killed the first few, and then faked his own death before finishing off the others and finally, himself. He writes that he knows no one could ever solve his carefully plotted murders. He leaves a note in the bottle because he can’t bear not taking credit for his clever scheme.
The pious, legalistic Emily reads the Bible and quotes Scripture. Her judgmental brand of faith causes her to shun her pregnant employee, leading to the girl’s death by suicide.
Dr. Armstrong misuses his authority as a physician to examine Justice Wargrave and falsify his death. Each of the guests once misused his or her position to hasten an innocent person’s death.
The Lord’s name is used in vain. Words including h—, a– and d–n appear a handful of times. Lombard refers to the man who hired him as Jew boy and makes other references to his nationality. A number of murders take place, but they are not graphically depicted.
General MacArthur’s wife had an affair with another man.
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