For one of today’s Christmas recommendations, I’m going with a classic from Queen of Mystery Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None.
This quintessential mystery plot has spawned numerous direct adaptations, influenced many a TV episode, and been spoofed countless times, probably across every genre. This is the book that sent high school me into a multi-month mystery binge, and though I haven’t read it in several years now, it still ranks a special spot on my bookshelves (which I organize by a bizarre combination of author and personal importance).
So here’s the plot (and even if you haven’t heard of the book yet, there’s no way you haven’t heard the plot): A group of strangers are gathered together, all of them with a secret. In this case, it’s ten people on an island. A guest dies, murdered by an unknown entity. The survivors discover that they are incapable of leaving their destination and deduce that one of them is the murderer. A game of paranoid cat and mouse develops as the murderer targets the remaining guests at intervals while the survivors try to unmask the villain and make it through the night. As tension mounts, secrets are revealed, trust is built up before having holes stabbed all through it, and riveting psychological exploration occurs. Okay, that last bit depends on the nature of the adaptation. Compare and contrast the movie Clue, which follows variations on this plot except it’s hilarious.
And Then There Were None is my go-to reference for anyone searching for a mystery. I am consistently surprised at how many people haven’t read it. So who should you bless with this literary masterpiece? Pretty much everyone. But more specifically, budding literary sleuths (preferably ones that have grown past the Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys stage; this book has depth, yo) and readers with a penchant for the psychological.