There is something about a rainy autumn night and a cup of hot tea with a cat on your lap and a fire crackling in the fireplace that screams “Read an Agatha Christie mystery!” In short, that is exactly what I did.
This was one of her favorite stories. In the forward she explains why. She had to work carefully to craft the story to her formula to ensure that it was consistent, that it made sense to the reader and that the solve was undetectable to the very end of the book. She achieved it all.
The story is set at an isolated house on an English island called Soldiers Island. Ten houseguests have been invited by a mysterious host named U.N. Owen to spend the weekend. Each guest has been given a different reason to attend. Three of the seven believe they are there as employees.
There is no way to exit the island except by tender. Weather effectively strands the guests there ensuring no one is able to leave. After the dinner is served on the first night, the mysterious hosts has the butler play a phonograph record. The host has yet to be seen but it is his voice outlining the real reason each guest is there.
Every individual has murdered another person, either legally or through accidental misadventure and the host believes that this means that each of those people have evaded justice and must be dealt with.
There is a poem posted throughout the house called “Ten Little Soldier Boys”. There are also ten soldier figurines on a centerpiece at the table. As each guest is dispatched, each soldier disappears.
And that is where I will leave you. Agatha Christie has a process that her readers will be familiar with – the set up and introduction, the crime and the solve. This was one of her better stories. I have a few favorites in my stash and every once in a while, it is fun to go back to one of the masters of the mystery genre and enjoy a touch of Edwardian England. Even the murders seem civil. Cheerio!