And Then There Were None
This lovely mystery book is first and foremost about the administration of the long-overdue justice, right? At least that's what the mastermind behind it all believes.
But the question is - who has the right to decide what justice is? And who is to decide what punishment serves the crime? And is perceived justice at all costs the ultimate goal, or is it the frequently pointless work of a maniac? As a matter of fact, what is justice after all?
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys travelling in Devon; One said he'd stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the Zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Indian boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were none.”
Nine little soldier boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were Eight.
Eight little soldier boys travelling in Devon; One said he'd stay there and then there where Seven.
Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.
Six little soldier boys playing with a hive; A bumble bee stung one and then there were Five.
Five little soldier boys going in for law; One got into Chancery and then there were Four.
Four little soldier boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.
Three little soldier boys walking in the Zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.
Two little soldier boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was One.
One little soldier boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were None.”
It is necessary, I promise.
This book was originally published in UK under a charming title of "Ten Little Niggers". When it came to the US version in the 40's someone decided that 'Ten Little Niggers' is not the most marketable title for a book so they changed it to 'Ten Little Indians' (as it was still ok to call Native Americans Indians then).
Only years after someone decided that neither 'Niggers', nor 'Indians' is a fortunate choice of words for the title so it was changed to 'And Then There Were None' - the last line of the nursery rhyme which in this new version was called 'Ten Boy Soldiers'.
This is the version that I read and I must say I am glad. I think I would be rather uncomfortable reading something called 'The Little Niggers', which takes place on 'Nigger Island' (how did Christie want to pull this off? 'Nigger Island' off the Devon coast? Really? How?).
The premise, I am sure you know, is this: ten people end up cut off from the world on a tiny island. One of them is a murderer and people keep dying as in the nursery rhyme. Every person on the island has a secret and is guilty of a murder. It's the kind of murder where law is helpless. Nothing can be proven. This is why they found themselves on that island, at the mercy of a prototype 'Jigsaw' madman who decided justice must be done.
The premise requires the structure of the novel to be very organised and clean cut. I felt that it was only right for me to approach the reading of it in an equally disciplined way. I took five sheets of papers and divide each in half, thus ending up with ten cards, one for each character.
And I continued to dilligently fill them out with all the details I learnt about the characters until about halfway through the book when I became too engrossed, frightened and nervous. I already had an inkling as to who the murderer was and was petrified I would be murdered in my sleep as well. The situation was very serious and I had to invite all my teddy bears back to my bed, so they could protect me.
I grew to like two of the characters - the sentiment, I think, I shared with Christie as she liked them so, she killed them last.
This was my second Christie, and the first proper one. The first one I read was a bit of a mishap spy novel, so Christie's brilliance wasn't as apparent as it was in 'And Then There Were None'.
Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon, England, U.K., as the youngest of three. The Millers had two other children: Margaret Frary Miller (1879–1950), called Madge, who was eleven years Agatha's senior, and Louis Montant Miller (1880–1929), called Monty, ten years older than Agatha.
During the First World War, she worked at a hospital as a nurse; later working at a hospital pharmacy, a job that influenced her work, as many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison.
On Christmas Eve 1914 Agatha married Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind Hicks. They divorced in 1928, two years after Christie discovered her husband was having an affair.
Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, came out in 1920. During this marriage, Agatha published six novels, a collection of short stories, and a number of short stories in magazines.
In late 1926, Agatha's husband, Archie, revealed that he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele, and wanted a divorce. On 8 December 1926 the couple quarreled, and Archie Christie left their house Styles in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalming, Surrey. That same evening Agatha disappeared from her home, leaving behind a letter for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Her disappearance caused an outcry from the public, many of whom were admirers of her novels. Despite a massive manhunt, she was not found for eleven days.
In 1930, Christie married archaeologist Max Mallowan (Sir Max from 1968) after joining him in an archaeological dig. Their marriage was especially happy in the early years and remained so until Christie's death in 1976. In 1977, Mallowan married his longtime associate, Barbara Parker.
Christie frequently used familiar settings for her stories. Christie's travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. Other novels (such as And Then There Were None) were set in and around Torquay, where she was born. Christie's 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Hotel Pera Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, the southern terminus of the railway. The hotel maintains Christie's room as a memorial to the author. The Greenway Estate in Devon, acquired by the couple as a summer residence in 1938, is now in the care of the National Trust.
Christie often stayed at Abney Hall in Cheshire, which was owned by her brother-in-law, James Watts. She based at least two of her stories on the hall: the short story The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, which is in the story collection of the same name, and the novel After the Funeral. "Abney became Agatha's greatest inspiration for country-house life, with all the servants and grandeur which have been woven into her plots.
During the Second World War, Christie worked in the pharmacy at University College Hospital of University College, London, where she acquired a knowledge of poisons that she put to good use in her post-war crime novels.
To honour her many literary works, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1956 New Year Honours. The next year, she became the President of the Detection Club. In the 1971 New Year Honours she was promoted Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, three years after her husband had been knighted for his archeological work in 1968.