AKA Ten Little Indians
AKA Ten Little Niggers
Because yes, this book is old enough that having “Niggers” in the title wasn’t considered offensive, at least in the UK. According to Wikipedia, it was never published as Ten Little Niggers in the US –
In the original UK novel all references to “Indians” or “Soldiers” were originally “Nigger”, including the island’s name, the pivotal rhyme found by the visitors, and the ten figurines. (In Chapter 7, Vera Claythorne becomes semi-hysterical at the mention by Miss Brent of “our black brothers”, which is understandable only in the context of the original name.) The word “Nigger” was already racially offensive in the United States by the start of the 20th century, and therefore the book’s first US edition and first serialization changed the title to And Then There Were None and removed all references to the word from the book, as did the 1945 motion picture.
The book and its adaptations have since been released under various new names since the original publication, including Ten Little Indians (1946 play, Broadway performance and 1964 paperback book), Ten Little Soldiers and – the most widely used today – And Then There Were None.
This is widely believed to be one of Christie’s best works. And Then There Were None is absolutely terrifying in the way that all truly good murder mysteries ought to be, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had been so many years since I had read it last that I couldn’t at all remember the conclusion, so it was as good as a first-time read.
Ten individuals are invited, under various guises, to spend a little holiday on a private island. But as soon as they arrive, things go from a tad odd to completely bizarre: there is no sign of their host, and, after dinner, a voice accuses them each of a different murder. In the room of each guess hangs an old nursery rhyme (“Ten Little Indians” in this version), and, one by one, each person on the island is murdered in a manner that seems to coordinate with the rhyme.
The pacing in this book is perfect. The tension ratchets with each death. I started this book at supper one night, and stayed up until midnight to finish it. That’s how good this book is.
Are there weaknesses? Perhaps a couple of nitpicky ones. But on the whole, no. It’s brilliant from beginning to end, and the clues are there for the reader to discover. (Well, theoretically. Not this reader. I’m really quite dreadful at solving mysteries. If it was on me to solve the murder of an acquaintance, their death would be forever a mystery.)
All in all, it is a book that well deserves its hype. If you read no other Christie, at least read this one. 5/5.