Agatha Christie’s best-known novel And Then There Was None is one of the 100 books that made the Great American Read list. And that seems like the perfect excuse to review the most recent adaptation of the book, this one an all-star production made for British television a couple of years ago.
If you’re not familiar with the story, it is a simple one: several strangers are invited to a remote island off the coast of England by a mysterious stranger for a house party.
The guests include a playboy (Douglas Booth, Loving Vincent); a judge (Charles Dance, Game of Thrones); a policeman (Burn Gorman, Game of Thrones); a general (Sam Neill, Dead Calm); a mercenary (Aidan Turner, Poldark); a doctor (Toby Stephens, Black Sails); a spinster (Miranda Richardson, Harry Potter); a husband and wife servant duo (Noah Taylor, Game of Thrones, and Anna Maxwell Martin, The Bletchley Circle); and a former governess turned secretary (Maeve Dermody).
Their host doesn’t materialize, but murder does as they are all promptly accused of homicides by a recording. Then one by one, they start to die, killed off in bizarre ways that mirror a nursery counting rhyme. Paranoia and hysteria erupt as they all, rather conveniently, begin to point fingers and deflect blame and frantically figure out who is offing them all, one at a time.
Personally, I enjoyed this adaptation. I hadn’t realized that the book has a history of being adapted as much more lighthearted than the original book. Which, if you’ve read the book, is a real headscratcher. The entire point of the book is pretty dark and grim, so I appreciate that this adaptation preserved that tone.
That’s not to say that it is an exact duplication of what occurs in the book. There are changes to some of the characters’ previous crimes and how they meet their end, among other revisions. That will, no doubt, irritate folks who prefer a more faithful adaptation. Personally, for me, I remember reading the book long ago, but my memory of specifics was patchy, so it didn’t bother me.
I thought the adaptation did a good job of capturing the spirit of the original, especially the characters’ panicked reactions once they realize what is in store for them, if not the details. Likewise, it also does a good job of capturing how the characters were originally written: ostensibly respectable, upper-class Britons who suddenly are shown to be quite corrupt and cruel. Watching their facades either crumble or remain intact in the ensuing stress is darkly entertaining.
The sets and costumes are also lovely to look at, recreating 1930s England well. But the biggest draw is probably the cast. Some of the cast was more familiar to me than others, but I thought they all did a good job of portraying their characters and also ensuring they all stood out (a potential difficulty with a cast this large). I always like when Turner, Neill, and Dance pop up in anything, but I’d probably give the acting MVP of the series to Dance, who is at his stern best here. (I was going to say he was at his Danciest. But that doesn’t seem to match the tone of the story. Nevertheless, I think it’s an adjective that needs to enter the lexicon. You can all thank me later.)
So, if you’re in the mood for a wickedly fun time–and don’t mind deviations from the source–give And Then There Were None a try! You’ll have a lot more fun than the characters themselves. . . .
You can find out more about it and place it on hold through our online library catalog. You can also find a short review of it here — it was one of the first books to get a card catalog review write-up in the Great Berryville Read.
What did you think about this Agatha Christie adaptation–yea or nay? Do you think it is possible to make a lighthearted version of And Then There Were None? What’s your favorite Agatha Christie adaptation? Tell us in the comments!