And Then There Were None

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Ten people arrive in a house where they must face their past crimes. Agatha Christie’s baffling and ingenious masterpiece, the world’s best-selling mystery.

‘The most colossal achievement of a colossal career.’

New Statesman, 1939

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About this story

First released

May 1939 (serialised in Saturday Evening Post, US)

Genre

  • Murder Mystery, 
  • Locked Room, 
  • Thriller

Formats

  • Novel, 
  • Play, 
  • Television Film, 
  • Radio Play, 
  • Graphic Novel, 
  • Game, 
  • TV

Murder methods

Setting

  • Island

Ten strangers arrive on an island invited by an unknown host. Each of them has a secret to hide and a crime for which they must pay.

This is the story that made Agatha Christie the best-selling novelist of all time and is read the world over in more than 50 languages. “It was so difficult to do,” she writes, “that the idea had fascinated me.” It was an idea which is now the basis for many Hollywood horror films and has become a cliché to modern audiences, but it was Agatha Christie who was the first to do it ...

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Ten strangers arrive on an island invited by an unknown host. Each of them has a secret to hide and a crime for which they must pay.

This is the story that made Agatha Christie the best-selling novelist of all time and is read the world over in more than 50 languages. “It was so difficult to do,” she writes, “that the idea had fascinated me.” It was an idea which is now the basis for many Hollywood horror films and has become a cliché to modern audiences, but it was Agatha Christie who was the first to do it and so successfully that the story has become her most adapted piece.

Christie began the adaptations, determined to challenge herself further by moving the story to the stage. It was performed in 1943 under the book’s original UK title, Ten Little Niggers, and changed the ending as both she and the producers were concerned about leaving the audience on a low note. More recently in 2005, Kevin Elyot, screenwriter for many of the Poirot and Marple episodes, wrote a new version of the play, restoring the original ending of the novel and using the US title.

The first adaptation for cinema was in 1945 with René Clair’s seminal film.  This escalated Christie’s stories to a whole new level and paved the way for an influx of adaptations, some of which Christie approved of and some which were made without her permission. 1949 saw And Then There Were None (again adapted under its original UK title) broadcast on the BBC, making it the first of Christie’s novels to appear on TV. Another British channel, ITV, produced their own version in 1959 and an American TV version was also made. Subsequent adaptations include the 1965 film by George Pollock (famed for the Margaret Rutherford Marple films) and the 1974 version by Peter Welbeck, the first to be made in colour.

The Hindi film Gumnaan in 1965 added Bollywood touches, including music and comedy, to the plot but was an unlicensed production which Christie had not approved. Similarly, a West German adaptation, Zehn kleine Negerlein, was directed by Hans Quest in 1969. In 1970 the story appeared on French TV and there was even a 1981 six-part adaptation made in Cuba. 1987 saw a Russian version titled Desyat' negrityat; this was rare in its use of the novel’s original ending. 1989 saw another US film, Ten Little Indians, directed by Alan Birkinshaw.

The story has also inspired many parodies including the spoof Murder by Death (1976), which starred Sir Alec Guinness, Maggie Smith and Truman Capote among others, and even an episode of US cartoon Family Guy, titled And Then There Were Fewer (2010).

It was made into a PC game in 2005 by The Adventure Company, the first in a series of Agatha Christie games. The identity of the killer was changed and it was ported to Wii in 2008. In 2009 HarperCollins, Christie’s long-standing publishers, released a graphic novel adaptation and in 2010 BBC Radio 4 produced a full-cast 90 minute dramatisation.

‘One of the most ingenious thrillers in many a day.’
Time Magazine

‘The whole thing is utterly impossible and utterly fascinating. It is the most baffling mystery Agatha Christie has ever written.’

New York Times, 1939



Agatha Christie Reading List

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