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And Then There Were None | Plot Summary

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Summary

Welcome to Indian Island

And Then There Were None begins with the journeys to Devon, England, and reflections of each of eight people who have been invited to come to Indian Island, off the coast of Devon. The eight visitors are each coming for different reasons described in a personalized letter they each have, either from a supposed old friend or friendly acquaintance asking to meet for a vacation or an employer offering a job on the island. A boat driver, Fred Narracott, who is supposed to deliver food every day but never reappears, takes the visitors to the island. The butler, Mr. Rogers, and his wife the cook, Ethel Rogers, meet the guests and direct them to their rooms. They say they work for a Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owen, but they have never actually met their boss.

Vera Claythorne, one of the guests, is the first to find a framed copy of the nursery rhyme "Ten Little Indians" in her room. As the guests are all relaxing after dinner, they notice there are ten figurines of little Indians on the table. They realize they all have the rhyme in their rooms. Rogers brings in coffee, but suddenly a voice comes from the next room, accusing each of the guests, Rogers, and his wife of individual murders for which they have never been punished. This is shocking to Rogers, as it is to all of the guests, because he has only followed his employer's written orders to play a record on the gramophone, and he has never met his boss. His wife then faints in the next room. Dr. Armstrong, one of the guests, helps Rogers give brandy to his wife. They put Mrs. Rogers to bed, and the men all have a drink to calm down.

The Murders Begin

To pool their information, the guests all tell each other how they were invited to the island and by whom. Anthony Marston swallows his drink down as they talk and chokes to death, just like the first two lines in the nursery rhyme: "Ten little Indian Boys went out to dine / One choked his little self and then there were nine." Dr. Armstrong discovers there was potassium cyanide in Marston's drink. After everyone goes to their rooms, Rogers notices that one of the figurines is missing. The next morning, he discovers that Mrs. Rogers has died in her sleep, from an overdose of chloral hydrate in her brandy, just as in the rhyme's second stanza: "Nine little Indian Boys sat up very late / One overslept himself and then there were eight." Another figurine goes missing from the dining room table, and Rogers, terrified, points this out to Dr. Armstrong.

The deaths continue in accordance with each stanza of the nursery rhyme, which provides a clue along the way as to who the killer may be, or at least who helped the killer. The guests all have some reason why they could be suspected by the others of murder, and they watch each other carefully. General Macarthur turns up dead next, hit on the back of the head with a life preserver: "Eight little Indian Boys travelling in Devon / One said he'd stay there and then there were seven." Rogers points out to Vera that another figurine has disappeared. Justice Wargrave says Owen must be one of the remaining guests. They all go through the evidence for each death and begin to accuse each other. Miss Brent's knitting wool goes missing, and then a red bathroom curtain disappears. The guests go to bed, and Rogers locks the figurines in, hoping that will stop the person taking them.

The next morning, a figurine is gone, and the guests find Rogers in the washhouse where he had been chopping sticks, dead from an axe wound to the head. The rhyme goes: "Seven little Indian Boys chopping up sticks / One chopped himself in halves and then there were six," but it's clear Rogers was murdered. The next to go is Miss Brent, who begins to feel "giddy" after breakfast, hears a buzzing in her ears, and sees a bumblebee on the window. The next verse of the rhyme is: "Six little Indian Boys playing with a hive / A bumblebee stung one and then there were five." Something that feels to her like a sting, but is actually a syringe filled with potassium cyanide, kills Miss Brent. Apparently, someone stole the syringe from Dr. Armstrong. Philip Lombard's revolver also goes missing.

The Missing Items Return

As the day proceeds, someone puts seaweed in Vera Claythorne's room, which makes her think of the drowning she encouraged, and she faints. After she comes to, everyone notices Justice Wargrave is missing. They find him sitting in his chair, wearing the red silk curtain like a robe, with a judge's wig made from Miss Brent's wool on his head. Dr. Armstrong lifts the wig and something red drizzles out—the doctor announces to everyone the judge has been shot. The next verse in the rhyme makes sense: "Five little Indian Boys going in for law / One got in Chancery and then there were four." Chancery is a court of equity, including trusts, land law, and estates, and it looks like Justice Wargrave has gotten his just rewards.

Later that night, when everyone is in their rooms, Philip Lombard discovers his revolver back in his room. Ex-Inspector Blore hears footsteps outside his room and alerts everyone else, but Dr. Armstrong has disappeared. There are only three figurines left. Vera thinks Dr. Armstrong has fooled them and is alive on the island because the next verse in the rhyme is: "Four little Indian Boys going out to sea / A red herring swallowed one and then there were three." (A "red herring" is a phrase that means a false, misleading clue.) They search but can't find him.

Suspicions Abound

The next day Ex-Inspector Blore goes back to the house to get food. He is killed by the marble bear-shaped clock in Vera's room, while Vera and Philip Lombard are unwilling to go back to the house. They rush back only when they hear Blore's cry. "Three little Indian Boys walking in the zoo" are clearly being watched, and Vera thinks it's Dr. Armstrong doing it. The clock is "a big bear" who "hugged one and then there were two."

Vera and Philip go back to the edge of the cliff near the water, and Vera sees Dr. Armstrong's body, drowned, on the rocks below. She thinks that since Philip Lombard is the only person left, he is going to kill her, so she snatches his revolver and shoots him. The next line of the rhyme is: "Two little Indian Boys sitting in the sun / One got frizzled up and then there was one." But her guilt about the child she watched drown, the child who was in the way of her marriage to her lover, makes Vera suicidal. She goes into her room and discovers a noose and a chair. In a fit of despair and self-imposed justice she thinks her lover wants her to inflict, she hangs herself. The rhyme says: "One little Indian Boy left all alone / He went out and hanged himself and then there were none."

Who Could It Be?

In the epilogue, Sir Thomas Legge, the Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard (the headquarters of London's metropolitan police force), goes through the evidence with the chief investigator on the case, Inspector Maine. Isaac Morris, who supposedly orchestrated the sale of the island, has died of a barbiturate overdose, so they can't ask him questions. They go through all of the cases and accusations against each guest announced by the voice on the record and realize that whether these guests were guilty or not in their individual cases, the person who killed them was exacting some kind of justice. It appears, however, that someone placed Vera's chair neatly against the wall. If she was alone when she committed suicide, how to explain that she didn't kick it over? Therefore, someone was on the island after Vera died, but the police still can't figure it out. Ten dead people on Indian Island is a complete mystery.

The Confession

In the last section of the novel, the owner of a fishing trawler finds a note in a bottle titled "A Manuscript Document Sent to Scotland Yard by the Master of the Emma Jane, Fishing Trawler," and he brings it to Scotland Yard. It is a confession from Justice Wargrave. He is the one who committed all the murders. He details his reasons saying he has always enjoyed causing death to animals, including humans, but has a strong sense of justice as well. He tells how he killed each person, admitting that he convinced Dr. Armstrong to stage his death and then killed the doctor off, allowing him to keep up the murder spree. He then tells how he killed himself, having realized that he did not want to die slowly of the terminal disease with which he had been diagnosed, but "in a blaze of excitement." He sets up his suicide so that it looks like a murder. Christie gives readers the solution to the mystery of the 10 murdered people on Indian Island.

And Then There Were None Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action

Introduction

1 Guests arrive on Indian Island.

Rising Action

2 Rogers plays the accusatory record for guests.

3 Anthony Marston chokes to death from cyanide.

4 Ethel Rogers dies from a chloral hydrate overdose.

5 General Macarthur dies from a blow to his head.

6 Judge Wargrave says the murderer is one of the guests.

7 Rogers dies from an axe-blow to the head.

8 Miss Brent dies from an injection of cyanide.

9 Judge Wargrave fakes his shooting death.

10 Dr. Armstrong disappears, dies from a fall and drowning.

Climax

11 Ex-Inspector Blore is hit by marble bear clock and dies.

Falling Action

12 Vera Claythorne kills Philip Lombard with his gun.

13 Vera Claythorne hangs herself in her room for Hugo.

14 Scotland Yard inspectors find bodies but can't solve crime.

Resolution

15 Captain finds Wargrave's confession to murders and suicide.

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