And Then There Were None

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This article is about the book. For other uses, see And Then There Were None (disambiguation).
"Ten Little Niggers" redirects here. For the song "Ten Little Nigger Boys", see Ten Little Indians.
And Then There Were None
And Then There Were None First Edition Cover 1939.jpg
Cover of first UK 1939 edition by Stephen Bellman with original title
Author Agatha Christie
Original title Ten Little Niggers
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Crime novel
Publisher Collins Crime Club
Publication date
6 November 1939
Pages 272[1]
Preceded by The Regatta Mystery
Followed by Sad Cypress
Website And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None is a mystery novel by Agatha Christie, widely considered her masterpiece and described by her as the most difficult of her books to write.[2] It was first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club on 6 November 1939 as Ten Little Niggers,[3] after the British blackface song, which serves as a major plot point.[4][5] The U.S. edition was not released until December 1939 with the title changed to the last five words in the original American version of the nursery rhyme, And Then There Were None.[6] In the U.S., it was both adapted and reprinted as Ten Little Indians.

In the novel, a group of people are lured into coming to an island under different pretexts, e.g. offers of employment or to enjoy a late summer holiday, or to meet old friends. All have been complicit in the death(s) of other human beings but either escaped justice or committed an act that was not subject to legal sanction. The guests and servants are charged with their respective "crimes" by a gramophone recording after dinner the first night and informed that they have been brought to the island to pay for their actions. They are the only people on the island, and cannot escape due to the distance from the mainland and the inclement weather, yet gradually all ten are killed in turn, in a manner that seems to parallel the ten deaths in the nursery rhyme. Nobody else seems to be left alive on the island by the time of the apparent last death. A confession, in the form of a postscript to the novel, unveils how the killings took place and who was responsible.

It is Christie's best-selling novel with more than 100 million copies sold, also making it the world's best-selling mystery, and one of the best-selling books of all time. Publications International lists the novel as the seventh best-selling title.[7]

Plot summary[edit]

Eight people arrive on Soldier Island (Indian Island in some versions, originally Nigger Island in the 1939 version), a small isolated island off the Devon coast of England. Each appears to have an invitation tailored to his or her personal circumstances, such as an offer of employment or an unexpected late summer holiday. They are met by Thomas and Ethel Rogers, the butler and cook/housekeeper, who state that their hosts, Mr and Mrs Owen, have not yet arrived. A framed copy of a nursery rhyme, "Ten Little Niggers" ("Soldiers" or "Indians" in later editions), hangs in every guest's room, and ten figurines sit on the dining room table. After supper, a gramophone (or "phonograph") record is played; it contains a recording that describes each visitor in turn, accuses each of having committed murder but escaping justice, and then asks if any of "the accused" wishes to offer a defence. All but Anthony Marston and Philip Lombard deny the charges, although Miss Brent refuses to discuss the matter with men present and relates her account the next day to Vera Claythorne. They discover that none of them actually knows the Owens, and conclude that the name "U.N. Owen" is shorthand for "Unknown". In the aftermath of the recording, Marston finishes his drink and immediately dies from cyanide poisoning. The remaining nine guests notice one of the ten figurines is now broken and the nursery rhyme appears to reflect the manner of death ("One choked his little self and then there were nine").

The next morning Mrs Rogers is found dead in bed, and by lunchtime General MacArthur is also found dead, from a heavy blow to his head. Two more figurines are found to be broken and again the deaths parallel the rhyme. A search for "Mr Owen" shows that nobody is on the island except themselves, and as the island is cut off, nobody could have arrived or left; they conclude that the killer must be one of their own number but anyone could be the killer. The next morning Mr Rogers is found dead while chopping wood, and after breakfast Miss Brent is found dead at the table, her neck injected with poison. Justice Wargrave suggests searching everyone's rooms and all dangerous items are locked up. However, when Vera Claythorne goes upstairs she is shocked by the touch of seaweed left hanging from the ceiling, and screams; the remaining guests rush to her aid only to find they have been tricked. Justice Wargrave is still downstairs. The others find him shot through the head. He is examined and pronounced dead by Dr Armstrong.

That night Armstrong is absent from his room; the remaining three guests conclude he must be the killer. They stay together but the next morning Blore is killed by the heavy statue of a bear that had stood in Vera's window as he goes to the house for food. Shortly afterwards the remaining survivors, Vera Claythorne and Philip Lombard, come upon Armstrong's body washed up on the beach, which they do not immediately recognise due to decomposition. They both realise he could not have killed Blore. In their panic, each concludes the other must be the killer. Vera suggests moving the doctor's body past the shore, but this is a pretext. She manages to lift Lombard's gun. When Lombard lunges at her to get it back, she shoots and kills him. She returns to the house in a shaken dreamlike state, relieved to be alive. She finds a noose and chair arranged in her room, and a strong smell of the sea. With visions of her former lover, Hugo, urging her on, in a post traumatic state, she adjusts the noose and kicks the chair out from under her.

Postscript by the killer

In a postscript, a fishing ship picks up a bottle to find it contains a written confession of the killings inside its trawling nets, which is then sent to Scotland Yard. It is not mentioned how long after the killings the bottle was discovered. In it, Justice Wargrave states that he has long wished to set an unsolvable puzzle of murder, but is morally limited to victims who are themselves guilty and deserving of such an end. He explains how he tricked the gullible Armstrong into faking his death, supposedly to give him freedom to identify the killer, and that after Vera died, he placed the chair in her room neatly, and used the gun and some elastic to ensure his own death matched the account in the guests' diaries. He also describes how his tenth victim was actually the London agent who anonymously purchased the island and arranged the invitations on his behalf, who was killed by poison before Wargrave departed for the island. His intention is that when the police arrive they will find ten bodies, with evidence that someone had been alive after each death, but nobody else on the island, and no way to trace the killer through his invitations or preparations. He states that, although there are hints that could guide them to the correct killer, he believes the police will be left perplexed.

Current published version of the rhyme[edit]

Main article: Ten Little Indians

Ten little Indian Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.

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.[8]

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.[9]

One little Indian Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

Characters[edit]

The following details of the characters are based on the original novel. Backstories, backgrounds and names vary with differing international adaptations, based on 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 and accepted no personal responsibility, complaining only that his driving licence 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 gramophone recording. ("One choked his little self ...")
  • Mrs Ethel Rogers, the cook/housekeeper and Thomas Rogers' wife, described as a pale and ghostlike woman who walks in mortal fear. She was dominated by her bullying husband, who coerced her into agreeing to withhold the medicine of a former employer (Miss Jennifer Brady, an elderly spinster) in order that they might 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 the second victim, dying in her sleep peacefully from an overdose of chloral hydrate in her brandy. ("One overslept himself ...")
  • 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 accepts that no one will leave the island alive, which he tells Vera Claythorne. Shortly thereafter, he is bludgeoned while left alone sitting along the shore. ("One said he'd stay there...")
  • 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. Despite his wife's death, Rogers was still serving the others. In that capacity, he was killed when bludgeoned with an axe as he cut firewood in the woodshed. ("One chopped himself in halves ...")
  • Emily Caroline Brent, an elderly religiously rigid spinster who 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, which Miss Brent considered an even worse sin. She refuses to discuss the matter with the gentlemen, telling them, "I have always acted in accordance with the dictates of my conscience. I have nothing with which to reproach myself." Later, she confides what happened to Vera Claythorne, who tells the others shortly before Miss Brent is found dead herself. She was sedated with chloral hydrate in her coffee, leaving her disorientated, before being injected in the neck with potassium cyanide while alone in the kitchen, with one of Dr Armstrong's hypodermic syringes ("A bumblebee stung one...").
  • 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 many years earlier. Armstrong is asked by Justice Wargrave to help fake his death, on the pretext that this will leave the judge free to find the killer, but is fooled in doing so – while rendezvousing with the judge at night on a rocky cliff, he is pushed by the other man into the sea and is killed ("A red herring swallowed one ..."). His body goes missing for a while, leading the others to believe that he is the killer, but his corpse washes ashore at the end of the novel, sparking the final confrontation between Vera Claythorne and Philip Lombard in which the latter is killed.
  • William Henry Blore, a former police inspector and now a private investigator, was accused of falsifying his testimony in court for a bribe from a dangerous criminal gang, which resulted in an innocent man, James Landor, being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Landor, who had a wife and young child, died shortly afterwards in prison. Using the alias "Davis" and claiming to have arrived from South Africa, as he was instructed to do, he is on the island for "security work". His true name is revealed on the gramophone recording. 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. ("A big bear hugged one ...")
  • 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 his invitation letter. Lombard is accused of causing the deaths of a number of East African tribesmen, after stealing their food and abandoning them to their deaths. He, along with Marston, are the only guests to openly and immediately confirm that the accusations against them are true; neither feels any remorse. ("Story's quite true! I left 'em! Matter of self-preservation. We were lost in the bush. I and a couple of other fellows took what food there was and cleared out ... Not quite the act of a pukka sahib, I’m afraid. But self-preservation's a man's first duty. And natives don't mind dying, you know. They don't feel about it as Europeans do.") Lombard fulfilled the ninth referenced verse of the rhyme, shot to death on the beach by Vera, ("One got frizzled up ...") who believed him to be the murderer. Of all the "guests" he is the only one to theorize that "U.N. Owen" might be Wargrave, but the others reject this and it does him no good.
  • Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a cool, efficient, resourceful young woman who is on leave from her position as a sports mistress at a third-rate girls' school. She has largely worked at secretarial jobs ever since her job as a governess was ended by 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 drowned. 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. Her plan backfired when Hugo, who loved his nephew, abandoned her after he somehow sensed what she had done. As the drunken Hugo told Wargrave in their fateful meeting on a transatlantic liner: "I've known a murderess – known her, I tell you [confides Hugo]. ... Women are fiends – absolute fiends – you wouldn't think a girl like that – a nice straight jolly girl – you wouldn't think she'd do that, would you? That she'd take a kid out to sea and let it drown – you wouldn't think a woman could do a thing like that?"
    Wargrave was able to trace Vera with this information, and lure her to the island. In the penultimate scene of the novel, she manages to take Lombard's gun and shoot him dead in what she believed was self-defence. 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 what Wargrave describes as a post-traumatic state, she sees and hears Hugo, her former lover, encouraging her and adjusts the noose round her neck and kicks the chair away, fulfilling the rhyme's final verse ("One little Indian 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 murder cases. He admits in his postscript that he has a lifelong hidden sadistic urge to cause death but felt bound only to indulge it with guilty persons, and a lifelong wish to create a masterpiece of a mystery. Finding himself terminally ill, he creates a game in which, as island owner "U.N. Owen" (i.e. "Unknown"), he entices to an island various people who have been responsible for the deaths of other people, but escaped justice, through a third party agent, Isaac Morris, in order to be a murderer himself, and kill his "guests" in a way that would leave an almost-unsolvable mystery. After the deaths, he arranges the island so that each death appears to have a survivor. However out of an admitted need for posthumous recognition, he also writes a confession, which he throws in the sea and leaves to chance whether it will be found. His final act is to shoot himself in a way that matches the description of his death in some of the other guests' diaries, by using a rubber cord and handkerchief wrapped around the gun when he shoots himself in the head; the elastic will separate and attract no attention, and the gun and cloth will recoil a sufficient distance from him to avoid any suspicion of the true circumstances by the police.
  • Isaac Morris (who never actually appears in the story) is the real "tenth death". He is an unethical lawyer who was hired by Wargrave (under the name "Owen") to purchase the island, record the gramophone record, and make various arrangements on his behalf. Morris's is the first death chronologically, as he dies before the story begins. Morris was responsible for the addiction and suicide of a young woman through his narcotics activities. The victim by chance was the daughter of a friend of Wargrave. A hypochondriac, he trusted "Mr Owen" sufficiently to accept the latter's lethal cocktail of pills, assured they would improve his health.
  • 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 scheduled to do, and found the bodies.
  • Sir Thomas Legge and Inspector Maine, two Scotland Yard detectives who discuss the case in an epilogue. It is clearly implied that the police have not solved the case by the time Wargrave's message is found.

Publication and book title history[edit]

Cover of first US 1940 edition with current title for all English-language versions.

The novel was originally published in 1939 and early 1940 almost simultaneously, in Great Britain and the United States. In Great Britain it was originally published under the title Ten Little Niggers, in book and newspaper serialised formats. The 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 having an illustration of Burgh Island in Devon which inspired the setting of the story. The serialised version did not contain any chapter divisions.[10] The book retailed for seven shillings and sixpence.

In the United States it was published under the title And Then There Were None, again in both book and serial formats. Both of the original US publications changed the title from that originally used in the UK, due to the offensiveness of the word in American culture, where it was more widely perceived as a racially loaded ethnic slur/insult compared to contemporary UK culture, and because of the pejorative connotations of the original blackface rhyme. The serialised version appeared 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 the book was published in January 1940 by Dodd, Mead and Company for $2.[4][5][6]

Publication and title: English language[edit]

In the original UK novel all references to "Indians" or "Soldiers" were originally "Nigger", including the island's name, the pivotal rhyme found by the visitors, and the ten figurines.[5] (In Chapter 7, Vera Claythorne becomes semi-hysterical at the mention by Miss Brent of "our black brothers", which is understandable only in the context of the original name.) The word "Nigger" was already racially offensive in the United States by the start of the 20th century, and therefore the book's first US edition and first serialization changed the title to And Then There Were None and removed all references to the word from the book, as did the 1945 motion picture.

The book and its adaptations have since been released under various new names since the original publication, including Ten Little Indians (1946 play, Broadway performance and 1964 paperback book), Ten Little Soldiers and – the most widely used today[citation needed]And Then There Were None.

UK editions continued to use the work's original title until the 1980s; the first UK edition to use the alternative title And Then There Were None appeared in 1985 with a reprint of the 1963 Fontana Paperback.[11]

English language editions and titles
  • 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 the novel under the title And Then There Were None).[11]
  • 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 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".)[12]
  • 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 (1986). Ten Little Indians. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-55222-8.  (Last publication of novel under the title "Ten Little Indians")

Publication and title: non-English languages[edit]

The original title (Ten Little Niggers) still survives in a few foreign-language versions of the novel, such as the Bulgarian title Десет малки негърчета, and was used in other languages for a time, for example in the Dutch publication until the 18th edition of 1994.[citation needed] The title Ten Little Negroes continues to be commonly used in foreign-language versions, for example in Spanish, Greek, Serbian, Romanian,[13] French[14] and Hungarian, as well as a 1987 Russian film adaptation Десять негритят (Desyat Negrityat). In 1999, the Slovak National Theatre staged the play under its original title but changed to A napokon nezostal už nik (And Then There Were None) mid-run.[15]

Non-English translations and titles
Language Title English translation
Arabic عشرة عبيد صغار, ثم لم يبق منهم أحد , جزيرة الموت,عشرة زنوج صغار Ten Little Negroes
Bengali রইলো না আর কেউ And Then There Were None
Bosnian Deset malih crnaca Ten Little Negroes
Bulgarian Десет малки негърчета Ten Little Negroes
Basque Eta ez zen alerik ere geratu And Then There Were None
Catalan Deu negrets Ten Little Black Men
Chinese 無人生還 (Wú rén shēng huán)
一個都不留 (Yī gè dōu bù liú)
No One Survived
None is left
Croatian Deset malih crnaca Ten Little Negroes
Czech Deset malých černoušků Ten Little Black Boys
Danish En af os er morderen One of Us is the Killer
Dutch Tien kleine negertjes
En toen waren er nog maar...
Ten Little Negroes
And then there were only...
Estonian Kümme väikest neegrit (1994 edition)
Ja ei jäänud teda ka (2008 edition)
Ten Little Negroes
And Then There Were None
Finnish Eikä yksikään pelastunut (1940, 2004)
Kymmenen pientä neekeripoikaa (1968)
And none survived
Ten little negro boys
French[14] Dix Petits Nègres Ten Little Negroes
Galician Dez negriños Ten Little Black Boys
German Letztes Weekend (1944)
Zehn kleine Negerlein (1982)
Und dann gabs keines mehr (2003)
Last Weekend
Ten Little Negroes
And Then There Were None
Greek Δέκα Μικροί Νέγροι Ten Little Negroes
Hebrew עשרה כושים קטנים Ten Little Negroes
Hungarian Tíz kicsi néger Ten Little Negroes
Icelandic Tíu litlir negrastrákar Ten Little Negro boys
Indonesian Sepuluh Anak Negro Ten Little Negroes
Italian Dieci piccoli indiani Ten Little Indians
Japanese そして誰もいなくなった (Soshite dare mo i naku natta) And Then There Were None
Korean 그리고 아무도 없었다 (Geurigo amudo eobs-eossda) And Then There Were None
Latvian Desmit mazi nēģerēni Ten Little Negroes
Malayalam ഒടുവില്‍ ആരും അവശേഷിച്ചില്ല (Oduvil Aarum Avasheshichilla) No One Survived in the End
Malaysian Sepuluh Budak Hitam Ten Black Children
Norwegian Ti små negerbarn Ten Little Negro Children
Persian ده بچه زنگی Ten Negro Children
Polish Dziesięciu murzynków
I nie było już nikogo
Ten Little Negroes
And Then There Were None
Portuguese (European) Convite para a Morte
As Dez Figuras Negras
Invitation to Death
Ten Black Figures
Portuguese (Brazilian) E Não Sobrou Nenhum
O Caso dos Dez Negrinhos
O Vingador Invisível
And Then There Were None
The Case of the Ten Little Black Boys
The Invisible Avenger
Romanian[13] Zece negri mititei Ten Little Negroes
Russian Десять негритят Ten Little Negroes
Serbian Десет малих црнаца Ten Little Negroes
Slovak A neostal ani jeden And Then There Were None
Spanish[citation needed] Y no quedó ninguno
and/or?
Diez Negritos
And No One Remained
and/or?
Ten Black Boys
Swedish Tio små negerpojkar (1940)
Och så var de bara en (2008)
Ten little Negro Boys
And Then There Was Only One
Tamil பிறகு அங்கு ஒருவர் கூட இல்லை
(Eng: Piragu angu oruvar kooda illai)
And then there were none
Kannada ಗಾಜಿನ ಮನೆ
(Eng: Gaajina Mane)
The Glass House
Thai ฆาตกรรมยกเกาะ
(rtgskhattakam yok ko)
Murders On The Island
Turkish "On Küçük Zenci" Ten Little Negroes
Ukrainian "Десять негренят" Ten Little Negroes
Urdu اور پھر کوئی بی نہیں رہا! And Then There Were None
Vietnamese Mười người da đen nhỏ Ten Little Black People

Literary significance and reception[edit]

And Then There Were None is one of Agatha Christie's best-known mysteries, widely considered her masterpiece and described by her as the most difficult of her books to have written.[2] 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... 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", he continued. "It will be an extremely astute reader who guesses correctly."[16]

Many other reviews were also complimentary; in The New York Times Book Review (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."[17]

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."[18]

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."[3]

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."[19]

The original name of the mystery (Ten Little Niggers) has long been abandoned as offensive in English-speaking countries and a number of others. Some critics have opined that Christie's original title and the setting on "Nigger Island" (later changed to "Indian Island" and "Soldier Island", variously) are perhaps 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."[20] 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."[20]

In the "Binge!" article of Entertainment Weekly Issue #1343-44 (26 December 2014–3 January 2015), the writers picked And Then There Were None as an "EW favorite" on the list of the "Nine Great Christie Novels".[21]

Adaptations[edit]

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.

Stage[edit]

In 1943, 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 real-life General Douglas MacArthur (then 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.

Dundee Repertory Theatre Company was given special permission to restore the original ending of the novel. The company first performed a stage adaptation of the novel in 1944 under its original title.[22]

Film[edit]

There have been numerous film adaptations of the novel, some adapted or comedic; at present only one of these – Stanislav Govorukhin's 1987 Russian adaptation Desyat' negrityat (Десять негритят, Eng: "Ten Little Negroes") – keeps intact Christie's grim storyline and ending. The first cinema adaptation was René Clair's successful 1945 US production, followed in 1965 by George Pollock's second cinema adaptation; Pollock had previously handled four Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford. Another significant production includes the first English-language colour version (Peter Collinson, 1974). The 2012 Tamil movie Aduthathu, and the 2015 Kannada film, Aatagara, both adapted the novel.[23]

Television[edit]

Several variations of the original novel were adapted for television. There have been three different British adaptations: two by the BBC (in 1949[24] and 2015), and an ITV adaptation in 1959.[25] There was also 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.[citation needed]

A West German adaptation, Zehn kleine Negerlein, was directed by Hans Quest for ZDF in 1969.[citation needed]

In 1970, Pierre Sabbagh directed Dix petits nègres for the French television adaptation.[citation needed]

In 1974, Jean Fayyad directed the television series "10 Little Niggers" in Arabic for the National Lebanese Television, adapted by Latifeh Moultaka.In 2014, the Lebanese channel MTV Lebanon revived the television series as "عشرة عبيد صغار" or "Ten Little Servants".[citation needed]

In Cuba, the novel was adapted in 1981 in a black and white six-part series starring Yolanda Ruiz, Miguel Navarro and Fernando Robles in the Vera Claythorne, Philip Lombard and Justice Wargrave roles.[citation needed]

Another BBC adaptation, based on the original novel, aired on BBC One from 26–28 December 2015. This was the first English language film adaptation to feature an ending similar to that of the original novel.[26]

Radio[edit]

The BBC broadcast "Ten Little Niggers" adapted by Ayton Whitaker as a Monday Matinee on the Home Service on 27 December 1947 and as Saturday Night Theatre on the Light Programme on 29 December.[27]

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 Philip 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".[citation needed]

Other media[edit]

The Adventure Company released the video game Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None in 2005, 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 Patrick Naracott (brother of Fred Naracott, who is involved in a newly created subplot), 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 murders of the innocent Lombard and Claythorne. All endings depart markedly from the novel and previous adaptations in that the killer and motives are different.[citation needed]

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.[2]

Peká Editorial released a board game based on the book, created by Judit Hurtado and Fernando Chavarría, and illustrated by Esperanza Peinado.[28]

In Anthony Horowitz's detective series, The Diamond Brothers, the case I Know What You Did Last Wednesday pays homage to And Then There Were None; protagonist Nick Diamond accompanies his brother Tim to a school reunion on a lonely island where the various guests start dying in a manner that reflects back to a subject that they came first in at school (the person who came first in chemistry is poisoned, the one who came first in geography is crushed by a globe, etc.), with the killer revealed at the conclusion to be a former schoolfriend who came second in everything.

Timeline of adaptations[edit]

type Title Year Notes
Film And Then There Were None 1945 American film and first cinema adaptation. Produced & directed by René Clair.
TV Ten Little Niggers 1949 BBC television production (IMDb)
TV Ten Little Niggers 1959 ITV television production (IMDb)
TV Ten Little Indians 1959 NBC television production (IMDb)
Film Ten Little Indians 1965 British film and second cinema adaptation. Directed by George Pollock and produced by Harry Alan Towers; Pollock had previously handled four Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford. Set in a mountain retreat in Austria.
Film (loosely based)   Gumnaam 1965 Uncredited Hindi film adaptation, which adds the characteristic "Bollywood" elements of comedy, music and dance to Christie's plot.[citation needed]
TV Zehn kleine Negerlein 1969 West German television production (IMDb)
Film 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto 1970 Italian film (directed by Mario Bava)
Film And Then There Were None 1974 English language film by Peter Collinson and produced by Harry Alan Towers. First English-language color film version of the novel, based on a screenplay by Towers (writing as "Peter Welbeck"), who co-wrote the screenplay for the 1965 film. Set at a grand hotel in the Iranian desert.
TV Ten Little Slaves (Achra Abid Zghar) 1974 Télé Liban TV series directed by Jean Fayyad, TV Adaptation by Latifeh Moultaka. (Facebook Page)
Film Desyat' negrityat
Десять негритят
("Ten Little Negroes")
1987 Russian film version produced/directed by Stanislav Govorukhin, notable for being the first cinema adaptation to keep the novel's original plot and grim ending.
Film Ten Little Indians 1989 British film, produced by Harry Towers and directed by Alan Birkinshaw, set on safari in the African savannah.
Film (loosely based) Identity 2003 Horror film with same starting settings
Film (loosely based) Mindhunters 2004 Suspense-thriller film with a similar premise
Film (loosely based) Umineko no Naku Koro Ni
Umineko no Naku Koro Ni Chiru
2007–2010 A series of Japanese sound novels which borrows the book's premise and sets the reader on a quest to discover the identity behind the crimes, and whether it is human or not.
TV (loosely based) Harper's Island 2009 13 episode mini-series with the same premise
Film (loosely based) Devil 2010 film by M. Night Shyamalan adapts this story's basic structure and final plot twist to the confines of an elevator
Film (loosely based) Game 2011 Bollywood thriller inspired by the story[citation needed]
Film (loosely based) Aduthathu 2012 Tamil movie [29]
TV (loosely based) Whodunnit? 2013 A Reality TV Gameshow Created by Anthony E. Zuiker.
Film (loosely based) Sabotage 2014 an American action thriller/crime drama film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger loosely based on the book.
TV Ten Little Slaves (Achra Abid Zghar) 2014 MTV Lebanon television production (MTV)
Film Aatagaara 2015 Kannada movie directed by K. M. Chaitanya produced by Dwarkish
TV And Then There Were None 2015 BBC One miniseries broadcast on three consecutive nights, directed by Craig Viveiros and adapted by Sarah Phelps. Ending similar to book, although not absolutely identical.

Parodies, references and related works[edit]

The 1933 K.B.S. Productions Sherlock Holmes film, A Study in Scarlet, predates the publication of Ten Little Indians and follows a strikingly similar plot;[30] it includes a scene where Holmes is shown a card with the hint: "Six little Indians ....bee stung one and then there were five"; the film predates the novel by six years. 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".[31]

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".[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

In the 1967 The Avengers episode "The Superlative Seven"[32] 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. When the first murder is committed, Steed observes "Looks as though his back was broken". To which an off-screen protagonist responds, over a speaker, "Quite right, Mr Steed. And then there were six".[33] 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.

In 2010, Seth Macfarlane created a parody as part for the ninth season of Family Guy, titled "And Then There Were Fewer". Peter Griffin receives an invitation to a dinner hosted in his honour. When he arrives at the location, he finds many of his friends and acquaintances all with the same invite. The first night ends with the killing of Glenn Quagmire's girlfriend Stephanie, and then actor James Woods (who voices himself on the series). As the night goes on, other deaths take place and references are made to And Then There Were None (without mentioning the novel's exact name). Tom Tucker is framed for the murders but as everyone leaves the next morning, Lois discovers the real murderer. Six characters (including some regular and recurring characters) are killed and their characters were written out of the series.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "And Then There Were None". HarperCollins. 
  2. ^ a b c "HarderCollins article on their adaptation ISBN 978-0-00-727532-8 (2009)". HarperCollins UK. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Review of Ten Little Niggers". The Observer. 5 November 1939. p. 6. 
  4. ^ a b 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. 
  5. ^ a b c Pendergast, Bruce (2004). Everyman's Guide to the Mysteries of Agatha Christie. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing. p. 393. ISBN 1-4120-2304-1. 
  6. ^ a b "American Tribute to Agatha Christie – The Classic Years: 1940–1944". Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2008. 
  7. ^ Davies, Helen; Dorfman, Marjorie; Fons, Mary; Hawkins, Deborah; Hintz, Martin; Lundgren, Linnea; Priess, David; Clark Robinson, Julia; Seaburn, Paul; Stevens, Heidi; Theunissen, Steve (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. 
  8. ^ Christie, Agatha (1944). And Then There Were None: A Mystery Play in Three Acts. Samuel French. This line is sometimes replaced by One got left behind and then there were seven. 
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Holdings at the British Library (Newspapers – Colindale); Shelfmark NPL LON LD3/NPL LON MLD3.
  11. ^ a b British National Bibliography for 1985. British Library (1986); ISBN 0-7123-1035-5
  12. ^ Whitaker's Cumulative Book List for 1977. J. Whitaker and Sons Ltd. 1978. ISBN 0-85021-105-0
  13. ^ a b ""Zece negri mititei" si "Crima din Orient Express", azi cu "Adevarul"" (in Romanian). Adevarul.ro. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  14. ^ a b "Dix petits nègres, nouvelle édition: Livres: Agatha Christie" (in French). Amazon.fr. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  15. ^ "Agatha Christie: Desať malých černoškov/ ... a napokon nezostal už nik". Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  16. ^ The Times Literary Supplement, 11 November 1939 (p. 658)
  17. ^ The New York Times Book Review, 25 February 1940 (p. 15)
  18. ^ Toronto Daily Star, 16 March 1940 (p. 28)
  19. ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – rev. ed. (p. 206). Fontana Books, 1990; ISBN 0-00-637474-3
  20. ^ a b Light, Alison. Forever England: Femininity, Literature, and Conservatism Between the Wars. Routledge, 1991 (p. 99); ISBN 0-415-01661-4
  21. ^ "Binge! Agatha Christie: Nine Great Christie Novels". Entertainment Weekly (1343-44): 32–33. 26 December 2014. 
  22. ^ Stage production of And Then There Were None at Dundee Rep, nls.uk; accessed 13 March 2014.
  23. ^ "Aatagara – Movie Review". 
  24. ^ Radio Times Issue 1348 p 39 BBC TV 20 August 1949 "Ten Little Niggers"
  25. ^ ITV Play of the Week: Season 4, Episode 20 "Ten Little Niggers", 13 January 1959.
  26. ^ And Then There Were None to air on BBC1 on Boxing Day 2015, radiotimes.com, 2 December 2015; accessed 4 December 2015.
  27. ^ Radio Times (26 Dec 1947) issue 1263
  28. ^ Peká Editorial website; accessed 10 July 2015.
  29. ^ "Aduthathu Movie Review". behindwoods.com. 
  30. ^ Taves, Brian. Robert Florey, the French Expressionist. New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1987, p. 152; ISBN 0-8108-1929-5
  31. ^ Taves (1987), p. 153
  32. ^ The Avengers – The Superlative Seven at the Internet Movie Database
  33. ^ At 28'38" into the episode (Kult TV DVD KLT21002B).

External links[edit]