Title: And Then There Where None
The book was first published in Great Britain in 1939 under the title Ten Little Niggers, but later on changed the name to the present title. This change was mainly done because of the word nigger, which today is a foul name for a dark person. And Then There Where None is a more decent title.
Author: Agatha Christie
This wonderful lady who was made Dame in 1971 was and still is the acknowledged queen of detective fiction. She is quiet simply the best selling novelist in history. Before she died in 1976, she had managed to write 80 crime mystery novels, short story collections, 19 plays, six novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, and saw her work being translated into more languages than Shakespeare! She was truly a marvellous person.
And Then There Where None in my eyes is a crime mystery; you get to know the characters, but not fully, you get to know the story, but not fully, never fully. This is the main reason I say this book is a crime mystery, you never get to know everything, you have to solve it yourself. Who’s the murderer? What actually happened there? How is that even possible?
Here is a quotation form the book;
“H’m – very remarkable – what was the cause of death?
Armstrong shrugged his shoulders.
“Impossible to say off-hand”.
“There must be an autopsy?”
“I certainly couldn’t give a certificate. I have no knowledge whatsoever of the woman’s state of health”:
Subject: Justice and Art of Murder
I like to say the subject of this novel is Justice and Art of Murder; it was after all what the murderer, Lawrence Wargrave, wanted to achieve. Wargrave was a judge, but had developed a desire to act instead of judge, he wanted to commit a murder himself, but justice was still important to him, quote:
I wanted to kill…….Yes, I wanted to kill….
But – incongruous as it may seem to some – I was restrained and hampered by my innate sense of justice. The innocent must not suffer.
All ten people at the island had committed a murder which the law was unable to touch, and they were all, according to Wargrave, guilty. But why would I say that the subject is also Art of Murder? Simply, that was what Wargrave wanted; he wanted his murder to be art. Crime and its punishment had always fascinated him. He enjoyed reading every kind of detective stories and thrillers. And he had devised for his own private amusement the most ingenious ways of carrying out a murder. He recognized the want to commit a murder like the desire of the artist to express himself! ‘I was, could it be, an artist of crime!’. He later determined to commit not one murder, but murder on a grand scale, quote:
“I must – I must – I must commit a murder! And what is more, it must be no ordinary murder! It must be a fantastical crime – something stupendous – out of the common!” In that one respect, I have still, I think, an adolescent’s imagination.
I wanted something theatrical, impossible!
Like I said; Art of Murder, but why did he do it? It was his ambition to invent a murder mystery that no one could solve!
Therefore I say that the subject is Justice and Art of Murder.
Characters: Lawrence John Wargrave, Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, Philip Lombrad, Emily Caroline Brent, John Gordon Macarthur, Edward George Armstrong, Isaac Morris, William Henry Blore, Anthony James Marston, Thomas Rogers and Ethel Rogers. There was no main character, though you could say that Lawrence Wargrave was the main character, but we didn’t get to know that before the last chapter!
Anthony Marston: Tony was described as a Norse god; he was young and full of life. He was the first to die. His crime was to have run down two children with his car. He didn’t feel much guilt by it, to have his drivers licence suspended for a year was much worse. Quote;
“I've been thinking – John and Lucy Combes – must have been a couple of kids I ran over near Cambridge. Beastly bad luck”.
“For them or for you?”
“Well, I was thinking – for me – but, of course, you’re right, sir, it was damned bad luck on them. Of course it was pure accident. They rushed out of some cottage or other. I had my licence suspended for a year. Beastly nuisance”.
Marston died when Wargrave slipped some potassium cyanide into his almost empty glass during the tense period after the gramophone recital.
Ten little nigger boys went out to dine; one choked his little self and then there were nine.
Mr and Mrs Rogers: These two had killed the old lady they were attending by withholding a restorative drug so they could get all the money she would give them if she died. They felt guilty, Mrs Rogers more so than her husband, but said there was nothing they could have done.
They were at Nigger Island as servants; they had been engaged by letter through an agency.
Mrs Rogers died of an overdose of potassium cyanide Wargrave slipped into the whisky glass Mr Rogers brought up to her after she had fainted.
Nine little nigger boys sat up very late; one overslept himself and then there were eight.
Mr Rogers died when he was chopping sticks for lighting the fire and didn’t hear Wargrave approach. Wargrave took the large chopper and cut his head open.
Seven little nigger boys chopping up sticks; one chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
General Macarthur: He was a guilty man and he felt it. He had killed his wife’s lover who was one of his officers, by sending him on a reconnaissance which he knew he wouldn’t survive. Now he lives alone, his wife is dead and he regrets his actions, now he is prepared to die. Quote;
“None of us is going to leave the island. That’s the plan. You know it, of course, perfectly. What, perhaps, you can’t understand is the relief!
The Blessed relief when you know that you’ve done with it all – that you haven’t got to carry the burden any longer. You’ll feel that too, some day….”
General Macarthur died when Wargrave sneaked up behind him and crushed his skull by a blow on the back of the head.
Eight little nigger boys travelling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven.
Emily Brent: She was an old lady, a bit crazed and Christian and very old fashioned.
Brent had thrown out a girl at her service, Beatrice Taylor, because she was pregnant, the girl committed suicide afterwards. Brent felt nothing for her, quote;
“What did you feel like when you knew she’d done that? Weren’t you sorry? Didn’t you blame yourself?”
Emily Brent drew herself up.
I? I had nothing with which to reproach myself”.
Vera said: “But if your – hardness – drove her to it?”
Emily Brent said sharply:
“Her own action – her own sin – that was what drove her to it. If she had behaved like a decent modest young woman none of this would have happened”.
Emily received a letter from one U.N.O which she thought was Miss Oliver. In the letter she was invited to Miss Oliver’s guest house on Nigger Island, they had been together at Belhaven Guest House in August some years ago.
Emily Brent died by Wargrave injecting a syringe of cyanide poisoning in her neck.
Six little nigger boys playing in a hive; A bumble bee stung one and then there were Five.
Lawrence Wargrave: Or Mr Justice (quiet ironic) Wargrave which he was called was the murderer of this crime mystery. He killed all the ten people on the island and afterwards sent a ‘bottle post’ explaining what actually went on at Nigger Island. Why? Well he really just wanted someone to know how clever he had been! He realised that no artist could be satisfied with art alone. There was a natural craving for recognition which could not be gained without doing so. And for the last stage, he took the revolver, and with the revolver, an eyeglass, an elastic cord, a bed, a handkerchief and the door-handle he succeeded to shoot himself in the forehead in accordance with the record kept by his fellow-victims.
Five little nigger boys going in for law; one got into Chancery and then there were Four.
Dr Armstrong: The doctor had operated an old lady while drunk and thereby killed her, he felt guilty but in his opinion it was merely an accident, he had more wits now.
Wargrave single out Armstrong as an ally, he was a gullible sort of man, he knew Wargrave by sight and reputation and it was inconceivable to him that a man of Wargraves standing should be the murderer! Wargrave hinted to Armstrong that he had a scheme by which it might be possible to trap the murderer into incriminating himself. So he knew that Wargrave faked his own death.
He had received a letter from The Owens saying he must come to check up on the wife, Mr Owen was worried about her health, but she mustn’t be alarmed, she hated doctors.
Dr Armstrong died when Wargrave pushed him over a cliff, he drowned.
Four little nigger boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.
Mr Blore: Blore was the police officer in charge of a case against a Mr Landor, who got penal servitude for life and died in Dartmoor a year later. But Landor wasn’t guilty and Blore knew it, Blore himself got a promotion. He claimed he was only doing his duty.
William was an ex-C.I.D. man, and now he ran a detective agency. He was paid by Mr Owen to join the house-party, posing as a guest and watching them all, he had been given their name beforehand.
Mr Blore died when Wargrave stood in Claythorne’s window and threw a marble clock shaped as a bear down on his head.
Three little nigger boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.
Philip Lombrad: Captain Lombrad was one of his kind, he actually said he was guilty when the others asked if he had killed all those people. Well he hadn’t actually killed them, just left them to die. He wasn’t at all bothered with his act, he seemed rather proud. He claimed the natives didn’t mind dying and that self- preservation is a man’s first duty, quote;
Philip Lombrad grinned.
“ 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 the food there was and cleared out.”
Lombrad was at Niggers Island because of a job he had to do for Morris, he was paid one hundred guineas to come there and keep his eyes open.
Philip Lombrad was shot with his revolver by Vera Claythorne.
Two little nigger boys sitting in the sun; One got Frizzled up and then there were One.
Vera Claythorne: She had let a boy she was nursery governess to drown. “That horrid, whiny little boy always pestered her to go swimming out to the rock”, so one day she told him he could she could get rid of him, quote:
“I’ll tell you what. Tomorrow you can swim out to the rock. I’ll talk to your mother on the beach and distract her attention. And then, when she looks for you, there you’ll be standing on the rock waving to her. It will be a surprise!”
We don’t get to know why exactly she wants the boy, Cyril, dead, but it has something to do with her love Hugo, who ironically left her after Cyril’s death believing she murdered him.
Claythorne received a letter from a Una Nancy Owen, telling her she had received her name from the Skilled Women’s Agency together with their recommendation. Una wanted her to work as her secretary at Nigger Island.
Vera Claythorne hung herself.
One little nigger boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were None.
Isaac Morris: He was the one Wargrave used to acquire the island with out leaving any trails of himself. He was an expert in that sort of thing.
Isaac was a shady little creature. Amongst other things he was a dope-pedlar and he was responsible for inducing the daughter of friends of Wargrave to take to drugs. She committed suicide at a age of twenty-one.
Morris was Wargrave’s tenth victim, he suffered from indigestion. So before Wargrave left London, he gave him a capsule to take last thing at night which would do wonders for his gastric juices. Morris died of an overdose.
Setting: Nigger Island, Sticklehaven, Devon
The setting took place at Nigger Island, an island which was bought by a rich American couple, if the newspapers were to be believed. To get to this island you had to take a boat from Sticklehaven when the water was down, you could not leave or visit the island when the water was high or windy.
There were also few trees and rocks to hide behind on Nigger Island, so it was a mystery how the murderer managed to hide all the time.
Time: Present time
And Then There Where None is written in something I would call, very present time. I don’t think you could write anything in more present time! Quote;
Lombrad looked thoughtfully at the man’s twitching face, his dry lips, the fright in his eyes. He remembered the crash of the falling coffee tray. He thought, but did not say: ‘Oh yeah?’
Blore spoke – spoke in his hearty bullying official manner.
“Came into a little something at her death, thought? Eh?”
Rogers drew himself up. He said stiffly:
“Miss Brady left us a legacy in recognition of our faithful services. And why not, I’d like to know?”
Look at the way its written, nearly all in present, remarkable really, haven’t read a book quite like that before.
Events: Ah yes, what happens, let us go through it rather quickly since I already have explained quite a bit.
Wargrave finds ten people he wants to kill because they have all committed a crime and haven’t been punished. Wargrave kills one of them before he leaves London for Nigger Island. So he sends nine of the ten to Nigger Island together with himself joining as a guest like the rest of them and kills them one by one. But nobody knows he's the murderer, since he was ‘killed’ as number 6, though Dr Armstrong knows he's alive, but doesn’t believe he's the murderer. After everybody is killed he kills himself so that it looks like he was murdered together with the others. Though before he kills himself he writes down everything that has happened on the island and sends it as bottle mail.
Ideas: I don’t see any messages in this story, but I'm not so good at looking for them either. I usually read books for entertainment, not to go looking for hidden messages in them. But I guess you could say, if you really wanted to find a message in this book, that the message is; ‘You can run, but you can’t hide!’. No sorry that was lame, what I wanted with that little sentence was to say that if you do something bad it will always come back to you sometime. Guilt can kill you know!
Comments: Ah yes, the fun part. I know I have done more than expected from me, but I tend to do that when it is about something I like, and I really like this book. It was thrilling, I always went back to the children rhyme ‘Ten little nigger boys’ to see if I could solve how the next person would die and who. I might have annoyed some of my classmates when I couldn’t keep my theories about who would die next and how to myself, seeing how many pages I was ahead of them. But surely they will get over it; some of my theories were actually true! Yeah I know, I was so proud. This was surely my kind of book, I enjoy reading crime mystery books, crime and fantasy being my favourites. I was pleased to see it wasn’t a hard book to read, I might have had some problems with it some years ago, but since I started to read those remarkably good fantasy books I'm reading at a moment my English vocabulary has increased nicely.
I would recommend this lovely crime book to people from 13-100, you never get to old for a good crime book, and this is one of the best! There’s not much to learn from this book if you aren’t like Lawrence John Wargrave and enjoy reading a detective book and device for your own amusement the most ingenious ways of carrying out a murder. But it surly entertains!