The first thing you’ll notice about Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is the author’s note. I rarely read the author’s note. Rather read it after I finish the novel just to see what was going on in their head when they wrote it. But in this case, the note is so short, so crisp and so surprisingly honest that one can just not avoid it. A rare occurrence where the author has been so pleased with herself and has actually gone a step ahead and mentioned it in the author’s note, the absolute thrill she feels in having put to words such a complicated plot.
And what a plot it is.
A book that I finished in one sitting, after long. Of course it is Agatha Christie. So it will be a nail biter till the end, but And Then There Were None is a nail biter even after you finish the book. You are just left stunned at the brilliance of the plot. The perfection of the storyline. And the identity of the killer. A clue which doesn’t spring up till almost the end when a small detail is revealed. The book doesn’t just elaborate a murder mystery but also dwells on the intricacies of the human mind and the transformations in their behaviour caused by the changing situation around them. The slow manner in which each human slowly turns into an animal with only one skill heightened – the need for survival.
The novel starts with a series of character introduction making you want to grab a pen and write down their names and background lest you miss a clue somewhere. Yes, knowing the author, you automatically don a Sherlock Holmes hat. Trust me, you might as well leave it aside. No amount of being alert from the start prepares you for the end.
The ten strangers are called upon a millionaire’s island and forced to stay there for a few days owing to bad weather. Things take an ugly turn when one of them gets murdered in the very first night and then the drama begins. A search to find the killer, the need to trust each other while at the same time being suspicious, the slow piling up of dead bodies and a last ditch attempt to save oneself; the situation only gets more confusing. As the plot unveils itself, the devil within comes out and the least likely suspect obviously turns out to be the criminal.
It is so evident why she loved the book. She should. Anyone would feel proud of themselves. This is the kind of masterpiece that would make even a seasoned thriller author feel like it is their best work. Even someone as accomplished as Agatha Christie.
I guess there comes a point in every artist’s life when they realise that the work they just completed is the best that can ever come out of them. Something that surpasses their own expectation. Something that makes them lay down their tools and say, “I am done.” They may choose to continue their work or stop right there, but they will know in their heart that it can never get better than this. Artists tend to like all their work, some more than the others. But there is always one work, one piece of art, that surprises them. That makes them its fan. The one piece which is their ultimate work. A moment that every artist dreads and craves for at the same time.
And I quite imagine Agatha Christie smiling smugly after going through the manuscript, sipping her cup of tea, looking out of the window and saying to herself, “You’ve outdone yourself, my girl.”
Pick up And Then There Were None, finish it in one sitting, and don’t bother about the cup of coffee; You won’t find time to sip it.
Photos: Remya Nair