And Then There Were None
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (September 2013)|
|And Then There Were None|
Cover of the first UK edition,
featuring the original title
|Original title||Ten Little Niggers|
|Cover artist||Stephen Bellman|
|Publisher||Collins Crime Club|
|Publication date||6 November 1939|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||256 pp (first edition, hardback) 173 pp (latest edition, hardback)|
|Preceded by||The Regatta Mystery|
|Followed by||Sad Cypress|
And Then There Were None is a detective novel by Agatha Christie. It was first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club on 6 November 1939 as Ten Little Niggers, after the British nursery rhyme which serves as a major plot point. The title was changed to the last line of the rhyme – And Then There Were None – for the first American edition, which used the original American version of the song. That song title, "Ten Little Indians", was used for some editions, until the Christie estate formally approved the US title of the work.
In the novel, ten people who had been complicit in the death(s) of other human beings but either escaped notice or were not subject to legal sanction, are tricked or lured into coming to an island under different pretenses, comprising various different sorts of reasons, mainly for either employment or, for the better off, an unexpected vacation or holiday. Although they are the only people on the island, and cannot escape due to the distance from the mainland and the inclement weather, each guest is killed in a manner seeming to parallel the deaths enumerated in the nursery rhyme.
It is Christie's best-selling novel with 100 million sales to date, making it the world's best-selling mystery ever, and one of the best-selling books of all time. (Publications International lists it as 7th best-selling.) The novel has been made into several films and adapted for radio.
- 1 Plot summary
- 2 Characters
- 3 Publication history
- 4 Literary significance and reception
- 5 Adaptations
- 6 International titles
- 7 Film, television & game adaptations
- 8 Television tributes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Eight people – Lawrence Wargrave, Vera Claythorne, Philip Lombard, General John Macarthur, Emily Brent, Anthony Marston, Dr Edward Armstrong and William Blore – are en route to Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon. Each person has an invitation, most in writing, in some cases seemingly from actual friends or acquaintances, tailored to his or her personal circumstances, i.e. ranging from offers of employment for some to an unexpected late summer holiday for others. The island, although remote, had been the subject of some relatively recent news gossip, with differing, mostly false, reports about its purchase by a new owner. After arriving on the island, the guests are informed by the butler and cook, a married couple, Thomas and Ethel Rogers, that their hosts, Mr and Mrs Owen (Ulick Norman Owen and Una Nancy Owen) are not present but will arrive soon, which the guests all find odd. They find a framed copy of the nursery rhyme "Ten Little Soldiers" ("Niggers" or "Indians" in respective earlier editions) hanging on the wall.
The currently published version of the rhyme (endorsed by the Christie estate) is as follows:
Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine;
Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late;
Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks;
Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive;
Five little Soldier Boys going in for law;
Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea;
Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo;
Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun;
One little Soldier Boy left all alone;
After the evening meal, guests notice ten soldier figurines on the dining room table. When a victim dies as described in the rhyme, one figure will go missing or be found broken into pieces. Each guest was lured by an individually tailored pretext, none can leave without the boatman, who has been instructed not to return to the island. As instructed by Isaac Morris, the servant for "Mr and Mrs Owens", the manservant Rogers plays a gramophone recording as he had been instructed to do which accuses each person in the house of having intentionally caused the death(s) of another (others), but had evaded earthly justice.
Dr Armstrong, when much younger, operated while drunk, killing a patient during what should have been routine surgery. Marston killed two children while driving recklessly. Miss Emily Brent dismissed her pregnant unmarried maid who then committed suicide. Soldier-of-fortune Lombard abandoned a number of indigenous African tribesmen whom he had commanded and stole their food, leaving them to die. Blore, an ex-policeman, who had been using an alias, framed an innocent man, who later died in prison. General Macarthur sent his wife's lover on a suicide mission. Thomas and Ethel Rogers withheld medicine from their former elderly employer, induced heart failure, and inherited. Wargrave is accused of being responsible for the execution of a man then widely believed to have been innocent. Vera Claythorne is accused of killing a child for whom she had been a governess. Marston and Lombard are the only guests to openly admit the charges against them. Justice Wargrave observes that "U.N. Owen" is a homophone for "unknown".
Marston dies from potassium cyanide poisoning, which was placed in his drink during the chaotic aftermath of the gramophone recording, thus fulfilling the first verse — "one choked his little self". That night, Mrs Rogers dies from an overdose of chloral hydrate, a sleeping medication — "one overslept himself". The next day, at lunchtime, General Macarthur is found dead from a blow to the back of his skull — "one said he'd stay there".
Armstrong, Blore, and Lombard search the island and the house but find there is nowhere on the bare rock to hide. The next morning, Rogers is found dead in the woodshed, struck in the back of the head with an axe — "one chopped himself in halves". Later that day, Miss Brent is killed in the dining room by an injection of potassium cyanide which leaves a mark on her neck — "A bumblebee stung one". The needle is found outside her window next to a smashed china figurine. Wargrave suggests locking up any potential weapons, including Armstrong's medical equipment and the judge's sleeping pills. Lombard admits to bringing a revolver to the island and initially refuses to turn it over until the others force him. He goes to collect the gun, and seems genuinely confounded to find it missing. To stay safe, only one person leaves at a time. Vera goes up to her room and starts screaming madly at fresh seaweed she rubbed against in the dark, which someone had hung in her bedroom. The remaining men, save one, run upstairs. Noticing Wargrave's absence they head back downstairs and find the judge, dressed in a mockery of a judicial wig and gown with the bright mark of a gunshot to the forehead — "one got into Chancery". Armstrong confirms the death. Lombard then finds his revolver has been returned to a drawer in his room.
That night, Blore hears someone sneaking out of the house and catches a glimpse of someone in the moonlight. Realizing that the only one missing is Armstrong, it is assumed he is the killer. The next morning, after eating breakfast, the remaining three try to signal the mainland and decide to remain in the relative safety of the beach, but there are no indications the signals have been seen. Blore goes to the house for food, and after not returning for a prolonged time, is found under Vera's bedroom window, his skull crushed by a bear-shaped clock — "a big bear hugged one". They suspect Armstrong, until his body washes ashore — "a red herring swallowed one".
Vera and Lombard both now believe each other to be the killer, overlooking in their panic the fact that neither could have killed Blore. Vera manages to persuade Lombard that they two should drag Armstrong's body away from the tideline, but this is only a pretext to get hold of his gun, which she does. When Lombard makes a sudden move towards her she shoots him, through the heart as it happens ("One shot the other and then there was One"). She returns to the house, happily anticipating the soon-to-arrive help from the mainland. But, arriving at her room, disoriented, she finds a noose and chair waiting for her, and feeling the presence of Cyril, the boy she allowed to drown, she wraps the noose around her neck and kicks away the chair — "he went and hanged himself, and then there were none".
In the epilogue, Inspector Maine, the detective in charge of the Soldier Island case, discusses the mystery with his Assistant Commissioner, Sir Thomas Legge, at Scotland Yard. There are no clues in the seaside town of Sticklehaven. Isaac Morris arranged the island purchase for "U.N. Owen", sent the invitations, and himself died from a drugs overdose the next day. Fred Narracott sent a rescue boat after learning of the distress signals; Narracott having been singularly suspicious since that first day when he ferried the first seven guests to the island; Dr. Armstrong arrived on a later ferry. Diary entries from some of the guests reveal the first six victims and the order of their deaths, both of which are inaccurate given that the sixth death (the "red herring") was not that of Wargrave, which everyone else believed, as will be revealed at the end of the novel. The chair Vera kicked away is found neatly set against the wall, Lombard's revolver was not found on or near his person (Vera having taken it with her back to the house but which Wargrave used last), Armstrong's body was found dragged above where any tide could have taken it (it was moved by Vera and Lombard at Vera's suggestion), and it is inconceivable that Blore could or would have dropped the clock on himself. This means someone was alive after all these deaths. These facts, given the inclement weather combined with the distance from the mainland, would have prevented anyone else from entering or exiting the island before Fred Narracott returned, ultimately leave the investigators confounded.
Off the Devon coast, a fishing ship picks up a bottle (containing a written confession) inside its trawling nets, which is forwarded to the police. The confession, or allocution, was signed by Justice Wargrave. A lifelong sadist, he relished causing suffering but only to the guilty due to the twisted sense of justice he has lived with his whole life. Following the diagnosis of a terminal illness (presumably cancer), and with a relatively short time to live, the judge decided to commit murder himself, locating ten individuals who intentionally caused the deaths of other persons but had escaped earthly justice, whom he succeeded in luring to the island he quietly purchased, to do something "theatrical and impossible". Experienced in observation, he confirmed all were guilty by their reactions to the phonograph recording. He deliberately began by disposing of what he considered the less serious offenders, saving the "prolonged mental strain and fear" for the more cold-blooded killers. He slipped potassium cyanide and chloral hydrate into the drinks of Marston, whom he determined to be "amoral", and Mrs Rogers, whom he adjudged to have been compelled by her dominating husband, respectively. After killing General Macarthur and Mr Rogers by bludgeoning them, he slipped his remaining chloral hydrate into Miss Brent's morning coffee to sedate her, then injected her with potassium cyanide when she was left alone in the kitchen.
He used Dr Armstrong as a dupe, as the doctor trusted the judge. The two hatched a scheme whereby the judge would be apparently shot dead but actually alive to investigate who was the "true killer". After the faking of Wargrave's death worked perfectly, he soon after met with Armstrong and pushed him off a cliff into the water, leaving him to drown (nicely coinciding with the "red herring swallowed one" line of the verse). After dropping the clock on Blore and witnessing Vera Claythorne shoot Lombard dead on the beach, Wargrave set the scene, leaving the noose hanging from the ominous black hook in her room's ceiling, where he had previously tormented her by leaving seaweed that brushed against her in the dark, reminding her of the sea, with a chair conveniently lying beneath. In what Wargrave describes as a "posttraumatic hypnotic state" and with thoughts of her former lover Hugo Hamilton in her head, she kicks away the chair, hanging herself. Wargrave returned the chair back against the wall afterwards in a position it could not have been in after Vera kicked it away, so the police will not be able to conclude who the culprit was.
Wargrave then wrote out his confession, admitting a "pitiful human need" for recognition, and throws it into the sea. He returns to his room and kills himself by fastening a rubber cord to the revolver, allowing it to drop to the floor after pulling the trigger (still bearing Vera's fingerprints) out of his reach – bearing a gunshot in his forehead, seemingly in accordance with the events as noted in writing in other guests' diaries or journals. He points out what he believes to be the three clues implicating him, but surmises correctly that the police will not have figured out the mystery.
- Wargrave was the only "innocent" guest, as the man he sentenced to death was found – after his execution – to have actually been guilty of the crime for which he was hanged;
- The "red herring" line in the poem suggests that Armstrong was tricked into his death, and the elderly judge would have been the person most likely for Armstrong to trust;
- The gunshot wound on Wargrave's forehead would appear similar to the one God bestowed upon Cain as punishment for killing his brother Abel.
Wargrave adds at the end of his allocution that the police will find 10 dead bodies – and an unsolved mystery – on Soldier Island.
The following details of the characters are based on the original novel. Backstories, backgrounds and names vary with differing international adaptations, based on the rules, censorship, cultural norms, etc.
- Anthony James Marston killed two young children (John and Lucy Combes) while driving recklessly, for which he felt no real remorse nor did he accept any personal responsibility, complaining only that his driving license had been suspended as a result. He was the first island victim, poisoned with potassium cyanide slipped into his drink while the guests were listening to the fateful gramophone recording.
- Mrs Ethel Rogers, the cook/housekeeper and Thomas Rogers' wife, described as pale and ghostlike woman with shifty light eyes. She obliged her dominating husband, who withheld their former employer (an elderly spinster, Miss Jennifer Brady)'s medicine to collect an inheritance they knew she had left them in her will. Mrs Rogers was haunted by the crime for the rest of her life, and was Owen's second victim, dying in her sleep peacefully from an overdose of chloral hydrate.
- General John Gordon Macarthur, a retired World War I war hero, who sent his late wife's lover (a younger officer, Arthur Richmond) to his death by assigning him to a mission where it was practically guaranteed he would not survive. Leslie Macarthur had mistakenly put the wrong letters in the envelopes on one occasion when she wrote to both men at the same time. The general fatalistically accepts that no one will leave the island alive, which he tells Vera Claythorne. Shortly thereafter, he is bludgeoned while sitting along the shore.
- Thomas Rogers, the butler and Ethel Rogers' husband. He dominated his weak-willed wife and they killed their former elderly employer by withholding her medicine, causing the woman to die from heart failure and inheriting the money she bequeathed them in her will. He was struck in the head with an axe as he cut firewood in the woodshed.
- Emily Caroline Brent, a rigid, repressed elderly spinster holding harsh moralistic principles. She accepted the vacation on Soldier Island largely due to financial constraints. Years earlier, she had dismissed her young maid, Beatrice Taylor, for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Beatrice, who had already been rejected by her parents for the same reason, drowned herself in a river, which Miss Brent considered an even worse sin. She refuses to discuss the matter with the gentlemen, but later confides what happened to Vera Claythorne, who tells the others shortly before Miss Brent is found dead herself. Having been sedated with chloral hydrate in her coffee, leaving her disoriented, she was left alone in the kitchen and injected in the neck with potassium cyanide with one of Dr Armstrong's hypodermic syringes (the "bee sting"). Right before her own murder, due to the chloral hydrate she has ingested, she has a lurid daydream about Beatrice and imagines hearing the girl's footsteps (they are actually the footsteps of the murderer).
- Dr Edward George Armstrong, a Harley Street doctor, responsible for the death of a patient, Louisa Mary Clees, after he operated on her while drunk. Armstrong foolishly trusts Wargrave, and, while rendezvousing with the judge on a rocky cliff, is pushed into the sea and drowns. His body goes missing for a while, leading the others to believe he is the killer, but his corpse washes ashore expeditiously at the end of the novel, leading to the climax.
- William Henry Blore, a retired police inspector and now a private investigator, accused of falsifying his testimony for a bribe from a criminal gang, in court, which resulted in an innocent man, James Landor, being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Landor died in prison. Blore arrives using the alias "Davis" and claiming to have arrived from South Africa, as he was instructed to do by Isaac Morris, who hired him for "security" work, but is confronted about his true name which was revealed on the gramophone recording, and he acknowledges his true identity. He denies the accusation against him from the gramophone recording but later privately admits the truth to Lombard. His skull was crushed by a bear-shaped clock dropped from Vera's bedroom window onto the terrace below.
- Philip Lombard, a soldier of fortune. Literally down to his last square meal, he comes to the island with a loaded revolver, as suggested by Isaac Morris. Lombard is accused of causing the deaths East African tribesmen after he stole their food, leaving them to starve. He, along with Marston, are the only guests to openly and immediately confirm that the accusations against them are true; neither feels remorse. Lombard fulfilled the ninth referenced verse of the rhyme, shot to death on the beach by Vera, who believed him to be the murderer.
- Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a cool, efficient, resourceful former teacher and governess, who has taken mostly secretarial jobs since her last job as a governess ended in the death of her charge, Cyril Hamilton, whom she intentionally allowed to swim out to sea – as the child had wanted to do but had theretofore been denied as too dangerous – and drown. She did this so her lover, Cyril's uncle Hugo Hamilton, could become the family heir, inherit the estate and marry her, which had been their original plan before Cyril's birth changed things. She swam out to sea to "save" Cyril to make it seem he had disobeyed her – as she had consistently told him it was too dangerous – but knowing she would not arrive in time. Hugo, however, who loved his nephew, abandoned her after he somehow realised what she had done. After shooting Lombard in what she believed was self-defense, she returns to the house, relieved she has survived. When she goes to her room, she finds a readied noose, complete with chair beneath it, suspended from a hook hanging from the ceiling. In a post-traumatic state, she adjusts the noose round her neck and kicks the chair away, apparently fulfilling the rhyme's final verse ("One little Soldier Boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none").
- Justice Lawrence John Wargrave, a retired judge, known as a "hanging judge" for liberally awarding the death penalty in different murder cases. He is accused on the gramophone recording of murder due to his summation and jury directions during the trial of an accused murderer named Edward Seton, who, at the time, had been widely believed to be innocent of the murder of which he was accused. Wargrave is discovered in the end to be the murderer on the island, although he was innocent of the charge against him, as Seton was later discovered to have actually been guilty. Wargrave fakes his own death with a "gunshot wound" on his forehead with Armstrong's help, creating an enormous red herring that fools everyone, except his dupe, Armstrong, whom he kills. After Vera hangs herself, Wargrave shoots himself using a complicated wire contraption that averts suspicion.
- Sir Thomas Legge and Inspector Maine, two detectives who discuss the case in the epilogue of the book, but are unable to solve the mystery.
- Isaac Morris, hired by "Mr Owen" (Wargrave) to purchase the island on his behalf. Morris tells the local townspeople to ignore distress signals for a week, arranges for the financially desperate Lombard to come to the island armed, and meet Owen for a later payment of 100 guineas (105 GBP) to Lombard. Like the guests on the island, Morris is responsible for someone's death. Through his narcotics dealings, he caused the addiction and suicide of a young woman, who just happened to be the daughter of friends of Justice Wargrave. The detectives discuss the death of Morris, from an overdose of medication, as does Wargrave's confession. Manipulated by his hypochondria, and to help with his "gastric juices", Morris trusted "Mr Owen" sufficiently to accept the latter's lethal cocktail of pills, assured they would improve his health. Morris is actually the first victim chronologically, dying before Marston.
- Fred Narracott, the boatman who delivered the guests to the island. After doing so he does not appear again in the story, although Inspector Maine notes it was Narracott who, sensing something seriously amiss, returned to the island as soon as the weather allowed, before he was supposed to, and found the bodies.
The novel was originally published under the title Ten Little Niggers in 1939, retailing for seven shillings and sixpence; the first US edition, published by Dodd, Mead and Company, was priced at two US$. All references to "Indian" were originally "Nigger": thus the island was called "Nigger Island" rather than "Indian Island" and the rhyme found by each murder victim was also called Ten Little Niggers rather than Ten Little Indians. Modern printings use the rhyme Ten Little Indians and "Indian Island" for reasons of political and ethnic sensitivity.
The UK serialisation was in 23 parts in the Daily Express from Tuesday, 6 June to Saturday, 1 July 1939. All of the instalments carried an illustration by "Prescott" with the first instalment having an illustration of Burgh Island in Devon which inspired the setting of the story. This version did not contain any chapter divisions.
For the United States market, the novel was first serialised in the Saturday Evening Post in seven parts from 20 May (Volume 211, Number 47) to 1 July 1939 (Volume 212, Number 1) with illustrations by Henry Raleigh and then published separately in book form in January 1940. Both publications used the less offensive title And Then There Were None. The 1945 motion picture also used this title. In 1946, the play was published under the new title Ten Little Indians (the same title under which it had been performed on Broadway), and in 1964 an American paperback edition also used this title.
British editions continued to use the work's original title until the 1980s and the first British edition to use the alternative title And Then There Were None appeared in 1985 with a reprint of the 1963 Fontana Paperback. Today And Then There Were None is the title most commonly used. The original title (Ten Little Niggers) survives in some foreign-language versions of the novel: for example, the Bulgarian title is Десет малки негърчета. The title Ten Little Negroes is used in a large number of foreign-language versions, for example, the Spanish title is "Diez negritos", the Greek title is Δέκα Μικροί Νέγροι, the Serbian title is Deset malih crnaca, the Romanian title is Zece negri mititei, the French title is Dix petits nègres and the Hungarian title is Tíz kicsi néger, while the Italian title, Dieci piccoli indiani, mirrors the "Indians" title. The Dutch 18th edition of 1994 still used the work's original English title Ten Little Niggers. The 1987 Russian film adaptation has the title Десять негритят (Desyat Negrityat, meaning Ten Little Negroes). In 1999, the Slovak National Theatre showed the play under its original title but then changed the name to A napokon nezostal už nik (And Then There Were None) mid-run. The computer adventure game based on the novel uses "Ten Little Sailor Boys".
- Christie, Agatha (November 1939). Ten Little Niggers. London: Collins Crime Club. OCLC 152375426. Hardback, 256 pp. (First edition)
- Christie, Agatha (January 1940). And Then There Were None. New York: Dodd, Mead. OCLC 1824276. Hardback, 264 pp. (First US edition)
- 1944, Pocket Books, 1944, Paperback, 173 pp (Pocket number 261)
- 1947, Pan Books, 1947, Paperback, 190 pp (Pan number 4)
- 1958, Penguin Books, 1958, Paperback, 201 pp (Penguin number 1256)
- Christie, Agatha (1963). And Then There Were None. London: Fontana. OCLC 12503435. Paperback, 190 pp. (The 1985 reprint was the first UK publication of novel under title And Then There Were None).
- Christie, Agatha (1964). Ten Little Indians. New York: Pocket Books. OCLC 29462459. (first publication of novel as Ten Little Indians)
- 1964, Washington Square Press (paperback – teacher's edition)
- Christie, Agatha (1977). Ten Little Niggers (Greenway edition ed.). London: Collins Crime Club. ISBN 0-00-231835-0. Collected works, Hardback, 252 pp (Except for reprints of the 1963 Fontana paperback, this was one of the last English-language publications of the novel under the title "Ten Little Niggers")
- Christie, Agatha (1980). The Mysterious Affair at Styles; Ten Little Niggers; Dumb Witness. Sydney: Lansdowne Press. ISBN 0-7018-1453-5. Late use of the original title in an Australian edition.
- Christie, Agatha; N J Robat (trans.) (1981). Ten Little Niggers (in Dutch) (Third edition ed.). Culemborg: Educaboek. ISBN 90-11-85153-6. (Late printing of Dutch translation preserving original English title)
- Christie, Agatha (1986). Ten Little Indians. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-55222-8. (Last publication of novel under the title "Ten Little Indians")
Literary significance and reception
And Then There Were None is one of Agatha Christie's best-known mysteries. Writing for The Times Literary Supplement of 11 November 1939, Maurice Percy Ashley stated, "If her latest story has scarcely any detection in it there is no scarcity of murders." He continued, "There is a certain feeling of monotony inescapable in the regularity of the deaths which is better suited to a serialized newspaper story than a full-length novel. Yet there is an ingenious problem to solve in naming the murderer. It will be an extremely astute reader who guesses correctly." Many other reviews were complimentary; in The New York Times Book Review of 25 February 1940, Isaac Anderson detailed the set-up of the plot up to the point where "the voice" accuses the ten "guests" of their past crimes or sins, which have all resulted in the deaths of other human beings, and then said, "When you read what happens after that you will not believe it, but you will keep on reading, and as one incredible event is followed by another even more incredible you will still keep on reading. The whole thing is utterly impossible and utterly fascinating. It is the most baffling mystery that Agatha Christie has ever written, and if any other writer has ever surpassed it for sheer puzzlement the name escapes our memory. We are referring, of course, to mysteries that have logical explanations, as this one has. It is a tall story, to be sure, but it could have happened."
Such was the quality of Christie's work on this book that many compared it to her 1926 novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. For instance, an unnamed reviewer in the Toronto Daily Star of 16 March 1940 said, "Others have written better mysteries than Agatha Christie, but no one can touch her for ingenious plot and surprise ending. With And Then There Were None ... she is at her most ingenious and most surprising... is, indeed, considerably above the standard of her last few works and close to the Roger Ackroyd level."
Other critics laud the use of plot twists and surprise endings. Maurice Richardson wrote a rhapsodic review in The Observer's issue of 5 November 1939 which began, "No wonder Agatha Christie's latest has sent her publishers into a vatic trance. We will refrain, however, from any invidious comparisons with Roger Ackroyd and be content with saying that Ten Little Niggers is one of the very best, most genuinely bewildering Christies yet written. We will also have to refrain from reviewing it thoroughly, as it is so full of shocks that even the mildest revelation would spoil some surprise from somebody, and I am sure that you would rather have your entertainment kept fresh than criticism pure." After stating the set-up of the plot, Richardson concluded, "Story telling and characterisation are right at the top of Mrs Christie's baleful form. Her plot may be highly artificial, but it is neat, brilliantly cunning, soundly constructed, and free from any of those red-herring false trails which sometimes disfigure her work."
Robert Barnard, a recent critic, concurred with the reviews, describing the book as "Suspenseful and menacing detective-story-cum-thriller. The closed setting with the succession of deaths is here taken to its logical conclusion, and the dangers of ludicrousness and sheer reader-disbelief are skillfully avoided. Probably the best-known Christie, and justifiably among the most popular."
The original name of the mystery (Ten Little Niggers) has long been abandoned as offensive. (For example, a former chairman of the governing council of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Bottrill, was pressured to resign after referring to the original title in a meeting.) Some critics claim Christie's original title and the setting on "Nigger Island" [later changed to "Indian Island", for the reasons stated above] are integral to the work. These aspects of the novel, argues Alison Light, "could be relied upon automatically to conjure up a thrilling 'otherness', a place where revelations about the 'dark side' of the English would be appropriate." Unlike novels such as Heart of Darkness, "Christie's location is both more domesticated and privatised, taking for granted the construction of racial fears woven into psychic life as early as the nursery. If her story suggests how easy it is to play upon such fears, it is also a reminder of how intimately tied they are to sources of pleasure and enjoyment."
And Then There Were None has had more adaptations than any other single work of Agatha Christie. They often used Christie's alternative ending from her 1943 stage play, with the setting often being changed to locations other than an island.
In 1943, Agatha Christie adapted the story for the stage. In the process of doing so, she and the producers agreed that audiences might not flock to such a grim tale and it would not work well dramatically as there would be no one left to tell the tale. Thus, she reworked the ending for Lombard and Vera to be innocent of the crimes of which they were accused, survive, and fall in love with each other. Some of the names were also changed with General Macarthur becoming General McKenzie, most likely due to the same surnamed real-life General Douglas MacArthur playing a prominent role in the ongoing World War II. On 14 October 2005, a new version of the play, written by Kevin Elyot and directed by Steven Pimlott, opened at the Gielgud Theatre in London. For this version, Elyot returned to the original story and restored the original downbeat ending in which Lombard and Vera both die.
There have been numerous film adaptations of the novel, some faithful, some comedic. The first was René Clair's successful 1945 US production. The second cinema adaptation of the book was directed by George Pollock in 1965; Pollock had previously handled the four Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford. This film transferred the setting from a remote island to a mountain retreat in Austria. Another variant of And Then There Were None made in 1974 was the first English-language color film version of the novel, directed by Peter Collinson from a screenplay by Harry Alan Towers (writing as "Peter Welbeck"), who co-wrote the screenplay for the 1965 film. This version was set at a grand hotel in the Iranian desert. A version from the USSR, Desyat' negrityat (Десять негритят "Ten Little Negroes") (1987) was written and directed by Stanislav Govorukhin and is the only cinema adaptation to use the novel's original ending. The most recent film, Ten Little Indians, directed by Alan Birkinshaw, was made in 1989 and is set on safari in the African savannah.
- The uncredited Hindi film adaptation Gumnaam (1965) adds the characteristic "Bollywood" elements of comedy, music and dance to Christie's plot.
- Murder by Death (1976; starring James Coco, Truman Capote, Peter Falk, Sir Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, David Niven, Maggie Smith, and Nancy Walker) was a spoof.
- The 1999 horror film Storm of the Century shares some literary elements and a similar premise with the novel.
Several variations of the original novel were adapted for television. For instance, there were two different British adaptions, the BBC adaption in 1949 and ITV adaptation in 1959. In addition, there was an American version, Ten Little Indians, directed by Paul Bogart, Philip F. Falcone, Leo Farrenkopf and Dan Zampino, with the screenplay by Philip H. Reisman Jr., that was a truncated TV adaptation of the play. A West German adaptation, Zehn kleine Negerlein, was directed by Hans Quest for ZDF in 1969.
In 1970, Pierre Sabbagh directed Dix petits nègres for the French television adaption. In Cuba, the novel was adapted in 1981 in a black and white six parts series starring Yolanda Ruiz, Miguel Navarro and Fernando Robles in the Vera Claythorne, Philip Lombard and Justice Wargrave roles.
The CBS television show Harper's Island was loosely based on the book, however, it is set over 13 weeks, instead of the 1 or 2 in the original, there are 25 characters instead of 10, and there are survivors left at the end.
On 13 November 2010, as part of its Saturday Play series, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a 90-minute adaptation written by Joy Wilkinson. The production was directed by Mary Peate and featured, among others, Geoffrey Whitehead as Justice Wargrave, Lyndsey Marshal as Vera Claythorne, Alex Wyndham as Phillip Lombard, John Rowe as Dr. Armstrong, and Joanna Monro as Emily Brent. In this production, which is extremely faithful to the novel, the rhyme is "Ten Little Soldier Boys".
In 2005, The Adventure Company released the video game Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None, the first in a series of PC games based on Christie novels. In February 2008, it was ported to the Wii console. The identity of the murderer is not that of the killer in the original book. The game player assumes the role of Fred Naracott, who is stranded with the others when his boat is scuttled. This allows for alternate, more successful endings in which Naracott survives and is able to prevent the final murders. And Then There Were None was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on 30 April 2009, adapted by François Rivière and illustrated by Frank Leclercq.
The K.B.S. Productions Inc. film, A Study in Scarlet (1933), predates the publication of Ten Little Indians and follows a strikingly similar plot. Though it is a Sherlock Holmes movie, the movie bears no resemblance to Arthur Conan Doyle's original story of the same name. In this case, the rhyme refers to "Ten Little Fat Boys". The author of the movie's screenplay, Robert Florey, "doubted that [Christie] had seen A Study in Scarlet, but he regarded it as a compliment if it had helped inspire her".
Several parodies have been made. As early as autumn 1942, "World's Finest Comics" (#7, Fall Issue) had a Superman story by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster called "The Eight Doomed Men" which used Christie's basic structure and even borrowed a number of her victim's backgrounds, although Superman intervened to rescue half of the intended victims and the killer's motivation was changed to specific revenge. Siegel and Shuster anticipated the 1966 film by moving the locale to a mountain cabin and tossed in a Zeppelin-like dirigible – one location not yet used in adaptations of the story. Another parody, the 1976 Broadway musical Something's Afoot, stars Tessie O'Shea as a female sleuth resembling Miss Marple. Something's Afoot takes place in a remote English estate, where six guests have been invited for the weekend. The guests, as well as three servants and a young man who claims to have wandered innocently onto the estate, are then murdered one by one, several in full view of the audience, with the murderer's surprise identity revealed at the end. For an encore, the murdered cast members perform a song, "I Owe It All to Agatha Christie".
In television, the story was spoofed in the 1966 Get Smart episode "Hoo Done It", which featured guest star Joey Forman as "Detective Harry Hoo", a parody of Charlie Chan. An episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends titled "7 Little Superheroes" is, being a children's show, a murder-free adaptation of the story. The Remington Steele episode "Steele Trap" and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. episode "Bounty Hunters Convention" were other television episodes inspired by the story. In the 1967 The Avengers adaption "The Superlative Seven" John Steed is invited to a costume party aboard a chartered aeroplane. The aeroplane is being flown by remote control. Steed and the six other fancy-dressed guests, who are specialists in various combat styles, eventually land on a deserted island where they are informed that one of them is a trained assassin trying to kill them all. Once the first murder is committed, a character comments, "And then there were six".
- Arabic: "ثم لم يبق منهم أحد" (And Then There Were None)
- Bosnian: Deset malih crnaca (Ten Little Negros)
- Bulgarian: "Десет малки негърчета" (Ten Little Negros)
- Basque: Eta ez zen alerik ere geratu (And Then There Were None)
- Catalan: Deu negrets (Ten Little Negros)
- Chinese: "无人生还" (No One Survived)
- Czech: Deset malých černoušků (Ten Little Negros)
- Danish: En af os er morderen (One of Us is the Killer)
- Dutch: Tien kleine negertjes (Ten Little Negros)
- Estonian: Kümme väikest neegrit (1994 edition), Ja ei jäänud teda ka (2008 edition)
- Finnish: Eikä yksikään pelastunut (year 1940, And none was saved); Kymmenen pientä neekeripoikaa (1968, Ten little negro boys); in 2003, reverted to original name
- French: Dix Petits Nègres (Ten Little Negros)
- Galician: Dez negriños (Ten Little Negros)
- German: Und dann gabs keines mehr (And Then There Were None) (since 2003), 1982 changed into: Zehn kleine Negerlein (Ten Little Negros), first edition in 1944: Letztes Weekend (Last Weekend)
- Greek: "Δέκα μικροί νέγροι" (Ten Little Negros)
- Hebrew: "עשרה כושים קטנים" (Ten Little Negros)
- Hungarian: Tíz kicsi néger (Ten Little Negros)
- Icelandic.: Tíu litlir negrastrákar (Ten Little Negro boys)
- Indonesian: Sepuluh Anak Negro (Ten Little Negros)
- Italian: Dieci piccoli indiani (Ten Little Indians)
- Japanese: "そして誰もいなくなった" (And Then There Were None)
- Korean: "그리고 아무도 없었다" (And Then There Were None)
- Latvian: Desmit mazi nēģerēni (Ten Little Negros)
- Malayalam: "Oduvil Aarum Avasheshichilla" (No one survived in the end)
- Malaysian: Sepuluh Budak Hitam (Ten Black Boys)
- Norwegian: Ti små negerbarn (Ten Little Negro children)
- Persian: "ده بچه زنگی" (Ten Negro children)
- Polish: I nie było już nikogo (And Then There Were None), previously Dziesięciu Murzynków (Ten Little Negros)
- Portuguese (European): Convite para a Morte (Invitation to Death), As Dez Figuras Negras (Ten Black Figures)
- Portuguese (Brazilian): E não sobrou nenhum (And Then There Were None), previously O Caso dos Dez Negrinhos (The Case of the Ten Little Negros)
- Romanian: Zece negri mititei (Ten Little Negros)
- Russian: "Десять негритят" (Ten Little Negros)
- Serbian: "Десет Малих Црнаца" (Ten Little Negros)
- Spanish: Y no quedo ninguno" (And Then There Were None)
- Spanish: Diez Negritos (Ten Little Negros)
- Swedish: Och så var de bara en (And Then There Was One), previously Tio små negerpojkar (Ten Little Negro Boys)
- Tamil: "Piragu angu oruvar kooda illai" (And then there were none)
- Thai: "ฆาตกรรมยกเกาะ" (Kat ta kum yok koh)
- Turkish: On Küçük Zenci (Ten Little Negros)
- Ukrainian: "Десять негренят" (Ten Little Negros)
- Urdu: "اور پھر کوئی بی نہیں رہا!" (And Then There Were None)
Film, television & game adaptations
- And Then There Were None, 1945 American film produced & directed by René Clair
- Ten Little Niggers, 1949 BBC television production (IMDb)
- Ten Little Niggers, 1959 ITV television production (IMDb)
- Ten Little Indians, 1959 NBC television production (IMDb)
- Ten Little Indians, 1965 British film (produced by Harry Alan Towers)
- Gumnaam, 1965 Bollywood movie
- Zehn kleine Negerlein, 1969 West German television production (IMDb)
- 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto, 1970 Italian film (directed by Mario Bava)
- And Then There Were None, 1974 English language film (produced by Towers)
- Murder by Death (1976), an outright spoof, with a cast of American and British stars
- Desyat Negrityat, 1987 Russian film (produced/directed by Stanislav Govorukhin)
- Ten Little Indians, 1989 British film (produced by Harry Alan Towers)
- And Then There Was Shawn, 17th episode of the fifth season of Boy Meets World,[when?] is a parody
- Storm of the Century (1999), horror film which shares some literary elements and a similar premise
- Harper's Island, a 13 episode mini-series with the same premise
- Identity, a 2003 horror film with the same startig settings
- Umineko no Naku Koro Ni, and (its sequel) Umineko Chiru, two Japanese visual novels largely borrow the setting for the deconstructing of the mystery genre, showing different endings to the same mysterious murder plot in each of its chapters, with an ending that wraps all of them.
- Devil, a 2010 film written by M. Night Shyamalan adapts this story's basic structure and final plot twist to the confines of an elevator
- Game, a 2011 Bollywood thriller inspired by the story
- And Then There Were Fewer,[when?] the first episode of the ninth season of Family Guy, is a comedic version with the similar premise of guests being invited to a large estate, being trapped by a storm, and some are murdered.
The Avengers aired an episode in 1967 wherein the main character of the series, John Steed, attended a party that turned out to have been a trap that landed him and six other people on a deserted island where they begin to be killed off one by one.
CSI:Crime Scene Investigation based an episode of the show's second season under the same name focusing on a gang of armed robbers stealing from casinos outside the Las Vegas metropolitan area with each criminal killing a member of the gang to keep more of the proceeds.
- "Review of Ten Little Indians". The Observer. 5 November 1939. p. 6.
- Peers, C; Spurrier A & Sturgeon J (1999). Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions (2nd ed.). Dragonby Press. p. 15. ISBN 1-871122-13-9.
- Pendergast, Bruce (2004). Everyman's Guide to the Mysteries of Agatha Christie. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing. p. 393. ISBN 1-4120-2304-1.
- "American Tribute to Agatha Christie – The Classic Years: 1940–1944". Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2008.
- Davies, Helen; Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen (14 September 2007). "21 Best-Selling Books of All Time". Editors of Publications International, Ltd. Archived from the original on 7 April 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2009.
- This line is sometimes replaced by One got left behind and then there were seven.
- Note: In some versions the ninth verse reads Two little Soldier boys playing with a gun/One shot the other and then there was One.
- "Ten Little Indians Study Guide". pp. 1–38. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
- Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers – Colindale); Shelfmark NPL LON LD3/NPL LON MLD3.
- British National Bibliography for 1985. British Library (1986); ISBN 0-7123-1035-5
- ""Zece negri mititei" si "Crima din Orient Express", azi cu "Adevarul"" (in Romanian). Adevarul.ro. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- "Dix petits nègres, nouvelle édition: Livres: Agatha Christie" (in French). Amazon.fr. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- British National Bibliography British Library. 1986. ISBN 0-7123-1035-5
- Whitaker's Cumulative Book List for 1977. J. Whitaker and Sons Ltd. 1978. ISBN 0-85021-105-0
- The Times Literary Supplement, 11 November 1939 (p. 658)
- The New York Times Book Review, 25 February 1940 (p. 15)
- Toronto Daily Star, 16 March 1940 (p. 28)
- Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (p. 206). Fontana Books, 1990; ISBN 0-00-637474-3
- "Top nurse quits over 'racist' remark". BBC News. 14 August 2002. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
- Light, Alison. Forever England: Femininity, Literature, and Conservatism Between the Wars. Routledge, 1991. (p. 99); ISBN 0-415-01661-4
- Taves, Brian. Robert Florey, the French Expressionist. New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1987, p. 152; ISBN 0-8108-1929-5
- Taves (1987), p. 153
- The Avengers – The Superlative Seven at the Internet Movie Database