I used to think that nursery rhymes were silly, simple, and annoying. They rang in my head, over and over: Little Jack Horner and Little Miss Muffet and Humpty Dumpty and Little Bo Beep. Why would I “waste my time” reading nursery rhymes? But after reading And Then There Were None, my perspective changed. I never knew that something so simple could become so sinister.
And Then There Were None (previously published as Ten Little Indians), by the great mystery writer Agatha Christie, tells of ten different people who are summoned to Soldier Island, a rocky island off the coast of Devon, England. At dinner, a mysterious message accuses each of the ten guests of a guilty secret. As they retire to bed, each notices a rhyme framed in their bedroom, which counts down from ten little soldier boys to none. One by one, the guests begin to die, all according to the nursery rhyme.
And Then There Were None was the very epitome of a thrilling book because it was baffling and dramatic. Throughout the story, unanswered questions rang through my head. “Who is Mr. Owen?” “Who is the killer?” Is Mr. Owen actually on the island, or is he one of the guests? As always, answers are saved for the last pages, and the truth is much more sinister than it seems. The book becomes even more sinister as ten china soldiers, placed in the middle of the dining table, are smashed to pieces or simply disappear as each guest dies.
Agatha Christie planned this book out very carefully. In the first pages she writes, “I wrote this book after a tremendous amount of planning . . . I knew better than any critic how difficult it had been.” (And Then There Were None, Christie.) I have tried planning a story out myself, and although I’m nothing compared to Agatha Christie, I agree that it is extremely difficult to plan out a book. As a result of her meticulous thinking, And Then There Were None was clear and straightforward, and yet the mystery was still baffling.
And Then There Were None is a page turner. After reading this book, nursery rhymes appeared more sinister to me, although they used to drive me insane. In the rhyme “Ring Around the Rosie,” the last line is “We all fall dead!” Strange for a nursery rhyme to say such a thing . . . or is it? This calls for further investigation!
You can buy the book here.
Christie, Agatha. And Then There Were None. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011. Print.