And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie (1939)
It’s engaging and moves quickly, but ultimately pretty thin. This is really my first foray into the whodunnit genre and as of now I prefer my mysteries either more organic (e.g. The Quiet American) or hard-boiled (Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett). Christie’s contrived scenario plays like a mere brainteaser, and while those can provide adequate diversion they’re not really why I read in the first place. I guess I know to avoid them from now on.
Other problems I had: the dialogue style was distractingly rudimentary, none of the characters are developed enough for you to have a real chance at guessing motives, and the killer’s introduction (i.e., the first scene we meet him/her) was a cheap misdirection that made any prediction of the finale virtually impossible. If a mystery author doesn’t play fair then she negates her purpose — the mystery becomes illegitimate. In other words: an insoluble puzzle is fun for nobody, though perhaps interesting as a curiosity.