ACRC: And Then There Were None (1939) by Agatha Christie

In her autobiography, Agatha Christie wrote: ‘I had written this book because it was so difficult to do that the idea had fascinated me. Ten people had to die without it becoming ridiculous or the murderer being obvious. I wrote the book after a tremendous amount of planning, and I was pleased whit what I had made of it. It was clear, straightforward, baffling, and yet had a perfectly reasonable explanation; in fact it had to have an epilogue in order to explain it. It was well received and reviewed, but the person who was really pleased with it was myself, for I knew better than any critic how difficult it has been.’

The title of this book refers to a nursery rhyme (Ten Little Indians). Ten people, most of them unknown to each other, have been lured by some Mr. U. N. Owen to an isolated mansion, either with the promise of an attractive salary or just to enjoy a free holiday; an offer none of them can reject. The mansion is placed in a deserted island near the coast of Devon in England. All the guests are surprised when, on arrival, their host is not there, he just apologizes for not being present. But after an excellent dinner, every one is in high spirits. Then suddenly a recorded message (per Mr. Owen’s earlier, written instructions) accuses each of them of a crime for which they were never punished. When the first minutes of tension have passed they realise that none of them have ever met Mr. U. N. Owen, a code name for ‘Unknown’. Who is hidden behind that name? What it looks like a macabre joke ends up being a terrifying and distressing nightmare when the first of them dies. One by one are being killed following the lyrics of the nursery rhyme.

And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Niggers) was written during the Second World War, while Agatha Christie was working as hospital dispenser. With over 100 million sales to date it is the world’s best-selling mystery ever. It has been adapted into several plays, films, and video games (from various sources including Wikipedia).

John Currant, author of Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, considers And Then There Were None (1939) one of The top 10 Agatha Christie mysteries. ‘A perfect combination of thriller and detective story, this plot is much-copied Christie’s Greatest Technical Achievement.’

Even without the novelty and the elements of surprise, we cannot forget that it was first published in book form in 1939, And Then There Were None still provides a very pleasant reading. Both for the beauty of its prose and as a portrait of an era. The reader can easily enter the game and will enjoy the book if he gets caught by the atmosphere in which the plot evolves. It has a clever ending that will test the sharpness of the reader.

And Then There Were None (1939)

Agatha Christie

Harper Collins Agatha Christie Signature Edition, 2007

Number of pages: 320

ISBN: 978-0-00-713683-4

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If you want to be part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, it is never too late to start. You can now join the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge too, just click HERE.

Read at your own pace, write a review on your blog, go to the Carnival collecting space and put in the URL, your details, and a comment about the post. The October edition of the Carnival will be posted on October 23, so get your submissions in by October 22.

Don’t know where to start? May I suggest a visit to John Curran’s Top 10 AC titles, alternatively the top ten books at Agatha Christie Website. But if you have a different view and want to tell me your favourite titles please feel free to do so in a comment to this post. I would like to hear from you.

Following Agatha’s Steps: Canary Islands, February 1927

acrc2_blogtour2010To commemorate Agatha Christie’s 120th birthday, Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise has launched a blog carnival tour this month at the ACRC . Each participant has volunteered to host the blog tour for one day in September. Obviously the post must be related to an Agatha Christie topic. Today, September 16th, is my turn. Thank you very much for your visit and please do follow the rest of this magical mystery tour.

In February 1927 Agatha Christie visited Canary Islands to recover from the psychological strain of the events that took place late in 1926. She mysteriously disappeared for eleven days in a “fugue state”, an amnesic episode due to emotional stress. Her mother, Clarissa Miller, had died after a severe illness, her husband was in love with another woman and she was going through a period of financial difficulties. (The enclosed picture showing Agatha Christie with her daughter Rosalind was taken probably around the time of her visit to Canary Islands).Agatha Christie and Rosalind

Agatha Christie together with her daughter, Rosalind, and her secretary, Charlotte Fisher, arrived at Tenerife on 4 February 1927. She was thirty-six years old. They stayed at the Gran Hotel Taoro in Puerto de la Cruz, at that time the best hotel in Tenerife and the centre of the British community on the island. On its premises were located the Anglican Church and the British Library, now Taoro Park. Upon their arrival they probably went to see the Orotava Valley, the favourite tour for all visitors arriving there. It is said that in Puerto de la Cruz Agatha Christie completed The Mystery of the Blue Train and she sent it to her publishers. She never felt proud of this book but it sold very well thus putting an end to her economic problems.

Having completed her novel she decided to stay one more week on the island to relax but she was not attracted to stay in Tenerife due to the absence of white sand beaches and on 27 February she moved to the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria. In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Agatha Christie and her entourage stayed at the Metropole Hotel located midway between Santa Catalina Pier and the city, opposite to Santa Catalina beach. The British Club and the tennis courts were nearby. In its halls Agatha Christie began to write The Companion, one of the mysteries included in her collection of short stories, The Thirteen Problems. This story has clear references to Gran Canaria, particularly to the beach of Las Nieves, located 48 miles from Las Palmas, in Agaete with a population close to 3,500 inhabitants at that time. On 4 March 1927 Agatha Christie took a steamboat back to England.  We can read at The Companion:

‘I don’t know whether any of you know the Canary Islands,’ began the doctor.

‘They must be wonderful,’ said Jane Helier. ‘They’re in the South Seas, aren’t they? Or is it the Mediterranean?’

‘I’ve called in there on my way to South Africa,’ said the colonel. ‘The Peak of Tenerife is a fine sight with the setting sun on it’

‘The incident I am describing happened in the island of Grand Canary, not Tenerife. It is a good many years ago now. I had had a breakdown in health and was forced to give up my practice in England and go abroad. I practised in Las Palmas, which is the principal town of Grand Canary. In many ways I enjoyed the life out there very much. The climate was mild and sunny, there was excellent surf bathing (and I am an enthusiastic bather) and the sea life of the port attracted me. Ships from all over the world put in at Las Palmas. I used to walk along the mole every morning far more interested than any member of the fair sex could be in a street of hat shops.

‘As I say, ships from all over the world put in at Las Palmas. Sometimes they stay a few hours, sometimes a day or two. In the principal hotel there, the Metropole, you will see people of all races and nationalities – birds of passage. Even the people going to Tenerife usually come here and stay a few days before crossing to the other island.

‘My story begins there, in the Metropole Hotel, one Thursday evening in January.”

And later on: “The following day I had arranged to go for a picnic with some friends. We were to motor across the island, taking our lunch, to a place called (as far as I remember – it is so long ago) Las Nieves, a well-sheltered bay where we could bathe if we felt inclined. This programme we duly carried out, except that we were somewhat late in starting, so that we stopped on the way and picnicked, going on to Las Nieves afterwards for a bathe before tea.”


In a mystery entitled The Man from the Sea, a short story included in her book The Mysterious Mr Quin also written in Canary Islands, the action takes place in an island that Christie locates in the Mediterranean Sea but everything reflects clearly La Paz at Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife. From her description, Agatha Christie had visited the Cologan’s house at La Paz where the central plot to the story is developed. Other typical places also mentioned in this short story are: Sitio Litre Garden and Martíanez Cliffs. For additional information visit Agatha Christie’s Route (in Spanish).

This information can be found in a book published to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of her visit: Agatha Christie en Canarias by Nicolás González Lemus (La Laguna, Nivaria, 2007). Puerto de la Cruz also held that year the First International Agatha Christie Festival from November 23rd to December 1st. Matthew Prichard, Christie’s grandson, was the guest of honour. This Festival is to be held biannually, the second edition of the International Agatha Christie Festival took place in June 2009. There is also a bronze bust of Agatha Christie and a street named after her at Puerto de la Cruz, the first one to my knowledge. festival_agatha_christie

See also:

Agatha Christie en Canarias (in Spanish) with several pictures.

Hotel Metropole, Las Palmas, Ilhas Canarias (in Portuguese and in Spanish) with picture of the hotel.

For a complete guide to travels with Agatha Christie click HERE.

Canary Islands Tourist Information

Participate in the ACRC’s Agatha Christie Blog Tour September 1-30

acrc2_blogtour2010 I would like to encourage you all to participate in the ACRC’s Agatha Christie Blog Tour.

For details visit the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival Blog HERE.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Roger-Ackroyd-lo-res__jpg_235x600_q95In the small English village of King’s Abbot a wealthy widow, Mrs. Ferrars has died victim of an overdose of veronal.  Mrs. Ferrars’ husband died just over a year ago of acute gastritis, helped on by habitual overindulgence in alcoholic beverages. During her mourning period she was secretly engaged to Roger Ackroyd, a wealthy manufacturer. Soon after her death Roger Akroyd is found stabbed to death. Are these three deaths related? Fortunately a new and mysterious neighbour is in town, a short man with an egg-shaped head, partially covered with suspiciously black hair, two immense moustaches and a pair of watchful eyes. Hercules Poirot has retired from work and has moved to King’s Abbot to grow vegetable marrows. The novel is narrated by Dr. Sheppard the doctor of King’s Abbot. Dr. Sheppard plays Captain Hastings role as Poirot’s assistant. Hastings is now living in Argentina with his wife. The book ends with a then-unprecedented plot twist. Its innovative ending had a significant impact on the genre (Wikipedia). It is often considered one of Christie’s masterpieces and it was published in 1926.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a delightful reading. I consider it a ‘must read’ for anyone who is willing to access Agatha Christie novels for the first time. A wonderful and very ingenious book that no crime fiction aficionado should miss. I enjoyed it thoroughly. You can read it several times since it supports different readings even if you know the ending. ACBC

You can visit here the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival hosted by Kerrie. You can always participate and read at your own pace.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd  has been reviewed by Mysteries in Paradise, A Woman of Mystery.

See also The Official Agatha Christie website.

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