Before reading And Then There Were None, my only experience of Agatha Christie was a long row of her books on my brother’s book case, David Suchet playing Poirot on TV and a big box of Miss Marple DVD’s of my Dad’s, squashed into the small TV drawer, between Fawlty Towers and Only Fools And Horses.
I always felt Christie belonged to another generation but I was keen to find out if her stories were as good as the book sales would have me believe. She is the doyenne of crime fiction after all. (The back of my copy told me this particular one has sold over 100 million copies.)
And so it was with a sigh of disappointment that I put the book down, having felt very little suspense, thrills or jumps. After the predictable and not very ‘big reveal’, this was a very low impact crime thriller.
I am going to read some Poirot stories before I totally dismiss Christie, but this seemed so dated. The dialogue is shockingly cricket bats and butlers. I couldn’t help but smile when someone shouted, ‘oh gosh, he’s dead!’
It is cleverly structured, but little happens. There is limited character development, the protagonists all very thinly sketched. it is clear that christie cared more abut the logistics of the story, to the point where you don’t really care who dies. every one of the characters is unsympathetic, self obsessed and maddeningly calm in the face of murder; their reactions on finding a dead body in the study usually along the lines of; “oh, another ones dead. Tea anyone?”
The idea is great, the execution (s) not.
The problem is, it hasn’t aged well. And nothing rammed this point home for me more than when I found out the original title was Ten Little Niggers. Gosh, how the times have moved on. To think a book could ever be printed with that title shocks more than any denouement she could create. The fact that racism even appears in the book (a character believed to be mad says that ‘we are all brother across the world.’ One character scoffs.) makes me wonder how may other Christie books are simply too anachronistic to have a positive impact on a modern audience.
Light on detail, poor on the reveal. Only mildly diverting. And the killer is pretty obvious.