Additionally, whenever a new episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot or Miss Marple would air on American television (usually on PBS) my entire family would sit down together and spend our Sunday evening watching the mystery unfold.
When I got a little older and felt more confident in my reading skills I went ahead and picked up Murder on the Orient Express from my mother's shelf. I began to read it. And while, even at that age, I had difficulty keeping up with Christie's writing I still knew there was something special there
And thus, my love of reading mystery bloomed.
Agatha Christie still remains the all reigning queen of the mystery story. Christie is credited with basically inventing the cozy genre. In fact, I'd go as far to say that every cozy mystery writer, and many other mystery writers in general, owe their careers to Christie and her significant influence over the world of mystery fiction.
To this day, my favorite mystery novel of all time is Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. In my mind, it is the perfect mystery story in every way. The meticulously calculated atmosphere, terror, claustrophobia, and (above all) paranoia make this novel one of the most brilliant mysteries ever set to paper. According to many literary theorists and critics And Then There Were None was Christie's greatest masterpiece.
I would have to agree with them.
Recently, And Then There Were None was made into a brand new TV mini-series. This mini-series was just released on Blu-Ray and DVD in America this last month. The mini-series consists of three episodes. Each episode is an hour long. Thus, the final run time of the entire piece is approximately three hours. And I'd say this story is most effective when watched in a single sitting.
But, the mini-series is not the first time this story has been put to film. I'm sure many of you have seen one of the two previous adaptions. The one from 1945 is probably the most well-known version. It stars Barry Fitzgerald and Walter Huston. Then, there is also another adaption from 1966 titled Ten Little Indians (which was the version I grew up on). Both adaptions take a rather lighthearted spin on the original tale.
This is not the case with the new mini-series. The new version is a more accurate rendition of Christie's original piece and remains closer to the story's dark roots. This is where I have to warn you, this version of the story is not for the faint of heart. Dark imagery, gruesome murders and frightening scenes abound here. And generally, while I am not thrilled with the amount of violence in modern media, I find that this adaption does the best job of committing the true atmosphere, tension, and meaning of And Then There Were None to film.
The story follows a group of strangers who are all called to a "house party" at a secluded mansion located on an island just off the coast. As they arrive, they realize that every bedroom in the house has a little poem hung on the door. The poem is titled Ten Little Soldier Boys. As the party goes on they begin to realize that something seems off. Suddenly, a voice comes on over a hidden speaker system. The voice accuses each of them of murder.
Appalled by these accusations, the entire party wants to leave. Unfortunately, because they are on an island they have no way of getting back or of calling for help. Pretty soon the guests begin to die off--one by one. It seems there is a murderer in their midst and no one knows who it is.
The mini-series adaption of this story takes great effort in letting us get to know each character and their past. This makes it all the more shocking--and sometimes satisfying--when they die off. There is significant time spent on flashbacks which review each character's past crimes. This adds a lot of flavor to the existing story.
The mini-series has some of the most beautiful music and cinematography of any mystery film I've seen. It uses plenty of imagery and sound to set a tone of tension and fear. And somehow, the story still has that element of coziness that you expect from Christie.
Ultimately, what sets the TV mini-series apart from the others is that it stays closer to the true ending of the novel Christie wrote. And while the ending is lighthearted in the previous film adaptions, the true ending of Christie’s story is a grim and foreboding one. The filmmakers and actors do an excellent job recreating the final moments of Christie's story in all of its gory details.
I realize that many mystery readers and fans of cozies prefer a clean and "bloodless" story. In many ways, as a writer and a cozy reader myself, I agree with that sentiment. If you prefer your stories to be free of violence, language, or dark imagery than I suggest not watching this version of Christie's story. However, if you don't mind a little blood and darkness then I'd say, as a mystery fan, you owe it to yourself to see this adaption of Christie's masterpiece.
When the novel was first released it was intended to be terrifying. And for the time period in which the story was set, it certainly was. This mini-series resurrects that fear Christie originally intended, removing the lighthearted elements that are present in the previous film adaptions.
And Then There Were None is one of the best adaptions of a Christie novel put to film. I'd go as far to say that it is the best film adaption of a Christie novel which I've personally seen (followed closely by the 2010 version of Murder on the Orient Express with David Suchet.)
If you are a fan of Agatha Christie, and especially of the original novel, I'd encourage you to check it out.