Published in 1939. Eight people were called to spend a holiday on an island. The invitations were sent on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owen, identified as old acquaintances with whom they had a brief encounter at some time in the past. And now with the pretext of a job offer or participation in a business they are drawn to the island to spend a few summer days.
The letters of invitation allude to the occasion that the alleged interview with Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owen took place, although none of the addressees had a very clear memory of the event, the details described in the missive on the other hand leave no doubt that they actually met up once in the past.
All guests then head promptly to the island and stay in the mansion, whose owner certainly don't know yet, settling comfortably in separate rooms. Hung on the wall of each room are the lyrics of a nursery rhyme Ten Little Indians; its macabre verses depict the horrific way characters die one by one; the sign is overlooked by the naïve guests.
The group is greeted and served by two staff members, as the hosts of the house are absent at the moment and will not arrive until several days later. Meanwhile, servants will provide with everything the travelers might need to feel comfortable.
Feeling glad with the warm welcoming and having a cup of coffee after dinner, attendees are shocked with the unexpected playing of a gramophone. The disturbing recording directly accused each of the guests of having committed or participated in a crime and having gotten away with it. After getting over from the early stupor visitors go into a state of confusion when they find out they had fallen into a trap and had been deceived in order to be held on the island.
Before long terrifying events begin to happen, and visitors deaths occur in the same conditions described in the Ten Little Indians nursery rhyme.
Being the greatest work of the writer, Agatha Christie does not skimp when it comes to introduce a large dose of suspense to the story. In my opinion, a work well accomplished. The book begins with the introduction of each character separately, since there seems to be no relationship among them other than the fact of having been all called to the island. At this point the question arises, how come everybody simply accepted the bid without making clear who the sender was? And meekly sail to the island without taking any precaution. What is also amazing is the hosts’ absence, being a formal call it cannot be expected that none of the owners is present for the reception.
The most significant element in the book is undoubtedly the lullaby; its appearance on the scene is so seemingly irrelevant that no one would ever imagine that its lyrics contain literally the disastrous outcome of the novel. Using this and other elements the author manages to convey the siege and the horror with which characters are harassed in the play; the deep concern that overwhelms them when going to bed without knowing who will be the next victim, the natural distrust that arises between the tenants and the desperation to escape the island.
The story leads the reader to take part in the investigation and to speculate on the reasons each character had to get rid of their peers, and what implications their past crimes could entail for them now. In some cases these crimes are real, but in others they are interpreted as such by the murderer. On the other hand, the reference to nine offenses conducted independently it is per se a business difficult to achieve, as it is also unlikely to reveal the common factors that may aim to the definitive identification of the author.
The outcome of the work closes the story with a flourish. Christie reveals the identity of the villain, who at this point is completely unsuspected; I must admit it fooled me till the end. From my perspective, some characters deserved to pay for their crimes, but the multiple homicide is in my opinion an excessive measure, still not entirely convinced by the motives alleged by the murderer. Justice must comply with a legal process that incriminate offenders through a trial; it is inconceivable that someone decides to simply dispense justice only because they consider others are wrong and they should be punished for their actions; I mean, even revenge contains a logic from certain angle that explains its realization.
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie