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Mystery Book Club - Past Titles: Nov. 2022

Titles from the Mystery Book Club at the Islington Branch *No longer an active club*

"And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie

  1. Talk about the characters—are any of them likable? Do you develop sympathy for anyone in particular: put another way, are some more sympathetic than others? Why might Christie have put together such an unpleasant cast of characters?

  2. Was there any one individual you originally suspected? What about Dr. Armstrong, who goes off alone to find General Macarthur?

    1. What clues reveal that the killer was the killer all along? Are there any that the other characters missed?

  3. What is the point of the poem "Ten Little Soldiers" and the fact that after each death one of the figurines on the dining room table goes missing? How do both the poem and figurines function in the story? Why might Christie have used such a symbol?

    1. Why was the killer so intent on making sure that everyone was killed in a certain order? Do you agree with the order that he chose?

    2. Why was Vera picked last to die? Was her crime really the worst, and why did she kill herself in the end?

    3. If any of the ten had been able to survive, whom would you have picked?

    4. How does the nursery rhyme give us clues about who the real killer is?

  4. Why does Emily Brent write in her diary the name Beatrice Taylor as the murderer? Does Brent feel guilt for what she has done or not? Do any of the guests come to regret their past actions?

  5. Does the time period matter in this story? How would it have changed if it were set in a different time or place?

  6. Talk about class and gender distinctions. Do you find it strange that Rogers continues to serve the guests despite the death of his wife? Or that women are in charge of meals and clean-up? What about the anti-semitic references?

  7. Talk about the motive behind the murders of all the guests, which then might lead you into a discussion of legal justice vs. philosophical justice. 

    1. Each of the guests is guilty of a crime, but not one that could be prosecuted in a court of law. Does each receive his/her just deserts? In other words, has true justice been accomplished by the end of the novel? Is the murderer insane as all the guests claim? Or is he/she acting with clear-headed logic and rationality?

    2. Who is the bigger criminal in this situation: the criminal victim or the person who decided it was his (or her) responsibility to mete out justice?

    3. Judge Wargrave has a long history of considering crime and those who commit crimes. He also calls himself “a man with a strong sense of justice.” As a result, he seems to feel that he has the expertise and right to single-handedly identify and punish those who have committed crimes but have escaped conviction by law. Do you think that any man or woman has the knowledge and the right to single-handedly deal out punishment to others? If so, when is it appropriate for him or her to do so? If not, why not?

  8. Does Christie’s prim and proper style take away from the mystery and suspense of the book, or does it add to it?

  9. Is the ending satisfying? Were you surprised by the identity of the murderer? Would you have preferred the final victim to discover who the killer was before dying? Why might Christie have withheld that information from readers, as well, until the epilogue?

  10. Have you read any other Agatha Christie novels? 

    1. Which ones and how does this compare?

  11. If you were casting a film adaptation today, whom would you choose to play the major roles?

  • Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller on September 15, 1890, in Torquay, Devon, in the southwest part of England.

    • The youngest of three siblings, she was educated at home by her mother, who encouraged her to write. 

    • As a child, Christie enjoyed fantasy play and creating characters

  • When she was 16, she moved to Paris for a time to study vocals and piano.

  • In 1914, she wed Colonel Archibald Christie, a Royal Flying Corps pilot, and took up nursing during World War I.

    • They had a daughter named Rosalind in 1919.

    • During the First World War, she volunteered to work in a red cross hospital. 

    • In 1917 she became a dispenser. (Local Histories)

  • She published her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920 

    • The story focused on the murder of a rich heiress and introduced readers to one of Christie's most famous characters—Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

  • In 1926, Christie released The Murder of Roger Ackroyd,

    • A hit that was later marked as a genre classic and one of the author's all-time favorites. 

  • She dealt with tumult that same year, however, as her mother died and her husband revealed that he was in a relationship with another woman. Traumatized by the revelation, Christie disappeared only to be discovered by authorities several days later at a Harrogate hotel, registered under the name of her husband's mistress.

    • There was wide speculation that she had been murdered when her car was found abandoned near a lake named Silent Pool in Surrey with the hood up, lights on, and the cab holding her belongings. There are several accounts on just how many hundreds of people went out searching for her, but after eleven days she was finally discovered at the Hydropathic Hotel (now Old Swan) in Harrowgate where she was residing under a different name.

    • This incident bore an uncanny resemblance to a scene from one of her novels, and it was later adapted into a book by Jared Cade titled Eleven Missing Days. Similarly, there was another novel, Agatha, written by Kathleen Tynan which was made into a major motion picture. (Famous Authors)

    • Christie would recover, with her and Archibald divorcing in 1928. 

  • In 1930, she married archaeology professor Max Mallowan

  • In 1939, she published, And Then There Were None, which remains, to this day, the best-selling mystery novel in the world. (ThoughtCo.)

  • Writing well into her later years, Christie wrote more than 70 detective novels as well as short fiction. 

    • Though she also wrote romance novels like Unfinished Portrait (1934) and A Daughter's a Daughter (1952) under the name Mary Westmacott, Christie's success as an author of sleuth stories has earned her titles like the "Queen of Crime" and the "Queen of Mystery." 

    • Christie can also be considered a queen of all publishing genres as she is one of the top-selling authors in history, with her combined works selling more than 2 billion copies worldwide.

  • Christie was a renowned playwright as well, with works like The Hollow (1951) and Verdict (1958). 

  • Christie was made a dame in 1971. 

  • In 1974, she made her last public appearance on the opening night of the play version of Murder on the Orient Express

  • Christie died on January 12, 1976, in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. (Biography)

    • Before her death, she made burial plans with her husband and was buried in the plot they purchased in the churchyard of St. Mary's, Cholsey. 

    • Sir Max survived her by about two years and was buried beside her upon his death in 1978. 

    • Her funeral attendees included reporters from around the world, and wreaths were sent by several organizations, including the cast of her play The Mousetrap. (ThoughtCo.)

  • Her Autobiography (1977) appeared posthumously. (Britannica)

  • Christie’s heirs continue to hold a minority stake in her company and estate. 

  • In some ways, Christie perfected what we now consider the classic mystery novel structure. 

    • There is a crime - usually a murder - committed at the beginning, with several suspects who all are concealing secrets of their own. 

    • A detective slowly unravels these secrets, with several red herrings and complicated twists along the way. 

    • Then, in the end, he gathers all the suspects (that is, the ones who are still alive) and gradually reveals the culprit and the logic that led to this conclusion. 

    • In some of her stories, the culprits evade traditional justice (although adaptations, many subject to censors and morality codes, sometimes change this). Most of Christie’s mysteries follow this style, with a few variations. (ThoughtCo.)

  • The Guinness Book of Records cites her as the second best-selling author of all time, after William Shakespeare. 

  • "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 with 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 had been.” - Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)

  • The Invisible Host by Bruce Manning and Gwen Bristow is believed to have been an inspiration for And Then There Were None - “It’s always possible she heard something in passing,” said Hervé (editorial director of Christie’s estate). “There was a real fashion in the 1930s for locked-room mysteries, and The Invisible Host is a good example of one of those, but there is no evidence that Christie was aware of it. You’ve got a woman who was at the absolute peak of her powers, and I’m sure she sat down and said, there’s this fashion for locked-room murders, I’m going to do the best possible one. She always rose above the genre. She defines the genre, but she also took it to a new level, like with Roger Ackroyd or Murder on the Orient Express.” (The Guardian

  • "Plots come to me at such odd moments, when I am walking along the street, or examining a hat shop...suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head."  - Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

  • "Spending most of her time with imaginary friends, Agatha Clarissa Miller’s unconventional childhood fostered an extraordinary imagination. Against her mother’s wishes, she taught herself to read and had little or no formal education until the age of fifteen or sixteen when she was sent to a finishing school in Paris. Agatha Christie always said that she had no ambition to be a writer although she made her debut in print at the age of eleven with a poem printed in a local London newspaper. Finding herself in bed with influenza, her mother suggested she write down the stories she was so fond of telling. And so a lifelong passion began. By her late teens, she had had several poems published in The Poetry Review and had written a number of short stories. But it was her sister’s challenge to write a detective story that would later spark what would become her illustrious career. Agatha Christie wrote about the world she knew and saw, drawing on the military gentlemen, lords and ladies, spinsters, widows and doctors of her family’s circle of friends and acquaintances. She was a natural observer and her descriptions of village politics, local rivalries and family jealousies are often painfully accurate.The most everyday events and casual observations could trigger the idea for a new plot. Her second book The Secret Adversary stemmed from a conversation overheard in a tea shop: “Two people were talking at a table nearby, discussing somebody called Jane Fish… That, I thought, would make a good beginning to a story — a name overheard at a tea shop — an unusual name, so that whoever heard it remembered it. A name like Jane Fish, or perhaps Jane Finn would be even better.” And how were these ideas turned into novels? She made endless notes in dozens of notebooks, jotting down erratic ideas and potential plots and characters as they came to her “I usually have about half a dozen (notebooks) on hand and I used to make notes in them of ideas that struck me, or about some poison or drug, or a clever little bit of swindling that I had read about in the paper”. Of the more than one hundred notebooks that must have existed, 73 have survived and John Curran’s detailed and thorough analysis provides a veritable treasure trove of revelations about her stories and how they evolved (see Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks). The notebooks themselves include previously unpublished material and are an intriguing look into her mind and craft. The seeds for several stories are easily identified. In 1963 a notebook held details of a plot in development: “West Indian book – Miss M? Poirot . . . B & E apparently devoted – actually B and G (Georgina) had affair for years . . . old ‘frog’ Major knows – has seen him before – he is killed.” A Caribbean Mystery was published in 1964 with the “Old Frog” as the novel’s first victim. The Caribbean island is beautifully described and was probably based on St. Lucia, an island that Christie had visited on holiday. But many of the hundreds of plots and red herrings from her fertile imagination never actually made it into print and as she herself said: “Nothing turns out quite in the way that you thought it would when you are sketching out notes for the first chapter, or walking about muttering to yourself and seeing a story unroll.” She spent the majority of time with each book working out all the plot details and clues in her head or her notebooks before she actually started writing. Her son-in-law Anthony Hicks once said: “You never saw her writing”, she never “shut herself away, like other writers do.” As grandson Mathew Prichard explains, “she then used to dictate her stories into a machine called a Dictaphone and then a secretary typed this up into a typescript, which my grandmother would correct by hand. I think that, before the war, before Dictaphones were invented, she probably used to write the stories out in longhand and then somebody used to type them. She wasn’t very mechanical, she wrote in a very natural way and she wrote very quickly. I think a book used to take her, in the 1950s, just a couple of months to write and then a month to revise before it was sent off to the publishers. Once the whole process of writing the book had finished then sometimes she used to read the stories to us after dinner, one chapter or two chapters at a time. I think we were used as her guinea pigs at that stage; to find out what the reaction of the general public would be. Of course, apart from my family, there were usually some other guests here and reactions were very different. Only my mother always knew who the murderer was, the rest of us were sometimes successful and sometimes not. My grandfather was usually asleep for most of the time that these stories were read but the rest of us were usually very attentive. It was a lovely family occasion and then a couple of months later we would see these stories in the bookshops.” (How Christie Wrote)

Recent Movie Releases

And Then There Were None (1945)

And Then There Were None (TV Mini-Series 2015) 

A Haunting in Venice (2023)

Murder is Easy (coming soon)

Death on the Nile (2022)

Agatha Christie Around the World

Charlie Chopra & The Mystery of Solang Valley (2023 - India)

Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie - 70's (2009 - France)

Agatha Christie's Hjerson (2021 - Sweden)

Ils Étaient Dix (2020 - France)

Checkmate (2022 - China)

Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie (2009 - France)

Appointment with Death (2021 - Japan)

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (2018 - Japan)

4.50 from Paddington (2018 - Japan)

The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side (1992 - England)

Contemporary Christie

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (2022)

The Pale Horse (2020)

The ABC Murders (2018)

Ordeal by Innocence (2018)

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Crooked House (2017)

The Witness for the Prosecution (2016)

And Then There Were None (2015)

Partners In Crime (2016)

Classic Christie


Miss Marple

Agatha Christie's Marple

Agatha Christie movies

Ten Little Soldiers (And Then There Were None) - Poem Analysis

  • Summary:  In the first lines of this poem, a little boy chokes himself, one oversleeps, one stays in Devon, one dies chopping up wood, and so on. Throughout, the poet utilizes examples of end rhyme and internal rhyme. Some of the connections between character deaths and Agatha Christie’s novel are clearer than others. Despite this, it is a haunting allusion to what’s to come throughout the rest of the book. The poem concludes with the final boy dying as he “went and hanged himself.” And then, the poet ends, “there were none.”

  • Structure & Form: ‘Ten Little Soldiers’ is an eleven-line nursery rhyme that is contained within a single stanza. The lines are quite long, each of which is made up of two halves. The first half ends with an activity the boys engaged in, and the second half ends with a death and the number of remaining boys. The end words do not rhyme among themselves, but the poet uses internal rhymes. These connect the number of remaining soldier boys with the activity they just engaged in. For example, “One” rhymes with “sun” in the tenth line of the poem, and “hive” rhymes with “Five” in the sixth line of the poem.

  • Literary Devices: Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to the following.

    • Caesura: occurs when a poet inserts a pause in a line of verse. This could be through the use of punctuation or through a natural pause in the meter. For example, “Six little soldier boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were Five.”

    • Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “soldier” and “sea” are in line seven. 

    • Repetition: occurs when the poet repeats one or more elements of a poem. This could be the structure, an image, a word, a phrase, or more. In this case, the poet uses several examples of repetition, including anaphoraepistrophe, and the use of the same structure throughout.


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