Headscratchers / And Then There Were None

  • The killer's entire plot was based around the characters being stuck on the island, but whether he knew it or not, it required a storm to hit on the night they arrived and lift on the last day. But of course U.N. Owen's plans had to be set in motion so far in advance there was no way to ensure that a storm would hit on the required days.
    • Owen's man told the villagers not to come to the island because it was an experiment, but Narracott ignored him and came anyway as soon as the storm lifted.
      • Seconded. He wasn't planning on the storm but it was convenient.
      • Owen's advance man also spread some rumors about to the effect that the party's isolation involved some kind of wager, which is exactly the kind of stupid thing rural Britons would expect out of silly upper-class city people.
    • The island is described as roughly a mile offshore, which is admittedly a long distance. But it is possible in calm seas for a person who is a strong swimmer, has proper clothes, and is motivated by mortal peril. Like Vera Claythorne, for example.
      • Vera probably hasn't been a lifeguard in many, many years. I think she's out of shape.
      • Surely not that long? I always had the impression the novel took place only 2 or 3 years after Cyril died.
      • Lombard would probably also count. However, you don't plan a scheme like this without a large amount of hubris; Wargrave probably assumed no one would try it. On the other hand, Wargrave is also the one who suggests they all stay in a group... possibly to keep an eye on the two most capable of making the swim. If they'd thought of it, Wargrave could have put some left over choral in a pre-swim drink and made them 'the red herring'.
      • The 2015 miniseries actually has Vera attempt to swim out, only to be talked out of it by Wargrave.
      • you are forgetting the biggest point - sea temperature. In Devon and cornwall, temperature can be as low as 5 degrees celsius, but the average for winter and spring is about 10 degrees celsius. this is actually extremely cold and your muscles will freeze up soon. every year people die in hot weather going swimming in quarries because they do not realise how cold the water is. Sure, there are swimming clubs who swim in cold water...but they don't swim a mile out from land where they can drown. And they don't swim for long periods either.
    • The second-to-last death of the nursery rhyme says they were "sitting in the sun," and the storm just happens to lift in time for Vera and Lombard to have their final showdown on the beach.
      • That's just good symbolic imagery / a coincidence.
      • Maybe not entirely: the original version of the rhyme is from a US minstrel show in 1868, called 'Ten Little Injuns'. In this version, the final lines go
    '''"Ten Little Injuns, foolin' with a gun,
    '''One shot t'other, and then there was one.
    '''One Little Injun, livin' all alone
    '''He got married, and then there were none."
    • Christie might have been paying tribute to this both in the novel's Lombard/Vera showdown, AND in the play... if I remember rightly, Lombard actually quotes the 'He got married' line to Vera at the very end of the play.

  • When Wargrave fakes his murder, he gets himself alone by staging it so that Vera would stumble into some seaweed he planted and start screaming to draw the men out of the sitting room. But even though all 4 of them now have a rock-solid alibi for his killing, none of the others (Armstrong excepted because he was in on the ruse) seem to accept that. Additionally, no one questions why Wargrave didn't join them in the rush to save Vera.
    • Did you seriously just ask why nobody questions why the dead guy didn't help save Vera?
      • He wasn't shot while they were all sitting there; they assume he was shot after they had left the room, while they were rushing up the stairs. But they never ask why he didn't leave the room when they did.
      • He's old. In the play, this is made even more obvious — the directions specifically say that Wargrave, thanks to his age, is the last character to leave the room when the screaming starts.
      • Also, the few remaining members are panicking, half of them have been killed by a murderer who they can't find. They aren't thinking very clearly at this point out of sheer terror of being next.
      • In addition, Vera is a distraction at the moment and the killer is supposedly upstairs killing her. If they rushed to see if the killer was there, they may not have noticed Wargrave was not with them. Armstrong was in on Wargrave's plan and was the main suspect, so he did not question it.
      • Which might also help explain why they don't assume everyone now has an alibi — in all the confusion, panic etc, they have no clear idea where anyone is, and it wouldn't be difficult at all for somebody to have quickly slipped back, shot the Judge, and rejoined the main party.
    • Note that nobody ever actually points out that this turn of events had cleared Vera herself. She couldn't have been upstairs screaming and downstairs shooting someone at the same time.
      • Not necessarily. The killer's already done one cute trick with a recording ("Ladies and gentlemen, silence please. You are charged with the following indictments..."), so as far as the others are concerned, what's to stop her from possibly trying it again, this time by playing a recording of her screaming to send them all off on a wild goose-chase? Unlikely, perhaps, but they're all running on sheer paranoia at this point, so they probably wouldn't discount the possibility entirely.

  • In the same scene, neither the combat veteran Lombard or the police detective Blore can apparently recognize that the dab of red on the Judge's forehead is not a real entry wound. And neither of them notice that he's alive and faking when they drag his body to his room.
    • Again, at this point Wargrave's plan overall dips heavily into 'too panicked and distracted to notice', which evidently works, albeit not real plausibly at several points.
    • Wargrave is a good actor (and even a good voice imitator), so I think he can play dead convincingly. And how good a look did anyone but the doc get at that wound mark? He probably would have kept anyone from getting too close and the lighting was dim IIRC.
      • Exactly. The generator's run down and they're relying on candles, and Armstrong is in fact the only one who gets a good look at the Judge before he covers the "corpse's" face and directs the others to take it up to Wargrave's room.

  • Also, the Scotland Yard detectives who investigate the murders afterward can't recognize that the Judge shot himself in his room rather than the parlor. The blood splatter should give that away.
    • Maybe the bullet didn't blow the back of his skull out? Not all guns make exit wounds.
      • Early 20th century crime science wasn't nearly as good as you might think.
      • They weren't * that* ignorant. Head wounds bleed profusely, people have known that as long as there have been head wounds. All of Wargrave's blood would have been pooled on the bed and none where he was allegedly murdered.
      • Wounds bleed if the heart's beating; otherwise, unless drained by gravity you'd only get the blood that was in the immediate area of the wound trickling out. It's possible that a head shot without an exit wound might stop the heart immediately and not bleed as much as you might think. But still...
    • Would the police even know where he was "supposed" to have died?
      • More than one member of the party was keeping a diary. William Blore and Vera Claythorne's journals would have said that Wargrave was shot dead in the drawing room. The pool of blood beneath Wargrave's head by the time his really-dead body is found would be just another bizarre, inconsistent detail.

  • Despite knowing that he's on the island to be murdered, his employer was fake, the others blame him for his wife's murder, and one of them is guilty of committing it... Mr. Rogers the servant chooses to remain a servant rather than simply telling the others to pound sand and make their own damn food. And it becomes plot-relevant when Wargrave is able to get him alone because he is out doing servant's work: chopping wood for the breakfast fire.
    • This goes back to the British class system of the time: Rogers (who is repeatedly shown to be an intensely conventional and unimaginative man) 'knows his place', and it isn't with the company, regardless of the situation. Granted, this is probably dependent more on Christie's readers accepting this stereotype than the validity of the type itself.
    • To be fair, The Movie fixed this:
    Roger: If you think I did it, then I won't make any drinks!
    Everyone: NO!
    • Plus, would it had done much good? He would still be on a island with an axe crazy murderer.
      • At the very least, he would have been sleeping in instead of being out alone chopping wood, which is how Wargrave killed him with no one noticing.
    • Lots of people who've just lost a loved one feel compelled to lose themselves in routine daily activities, rather than let grief overwhelm them. Rogers probably kept working to distract himself from the shock of his wife's death. The stage directions for the play explain it this way, as does Vera in dialogue.
    • What's really surprising is that everyone had realised the significance of the nursery rhyme by this point, but nobody thought that Rogers might be in danger when he did exactly what the fourth line was about. Surely somebody might have suggested that he wait until everyone was up?
    • What's perplexing is that, when the rhyme started coming true, nobody thought to all go to the woodshed and chop enough wood for the foreseeable future, then throw the ax into the sea.
      • As mentioned above, you have to remember that this is 1930s Britain we're discussing. There's all sorts of issues around class and gender that mean that many of the people present simply wouldn't consider anyone other than the manservant chopping wood. There's also the fact that no one is necessarily taking the nursery rhyme aspect that seriously until Rogers gets his with an axe, since his death is probably the one that matches the nursery rhyme closest (everyone's still a bit skeptical with the first two murders and the third is a bit more of an oblique way of fulfilling it).

  • Lombard is generally described throughout the book as a ruthless survivalist. But when he is alone on the island with Vera, is convinced she is the murderer (to his mind, they are the last two left), and is armed with a handgun, he doesn't simply shoot her. Rather, he helps her with Armstrong's body and gives her the chance to steal his revolver even though that was the only way he could put himself in danger. Additionally, somehow Wargrave predicted that he would be Too Dumb to Live, because Lombard wouldn't have hung himself to complete the story.
    • Heck, this troper was surprised he didn't simply shoot Blore, Armstrong and Vera as soon as he got his gun back. He's the one who'd abandoned a whole group of men to starve to death, after all, and had originally come to the island expecting he might have to use the weapon.
      • Lombard probably didn't kill both Blore and Vera immediately because that would still leave him trapped on an island full of corpses. He knew he'd need the person who wasn't the killer alive and with him, once the authorities arrived; otherwise, he'd have nobody to vouch for his story and the police would assume he'd murdered everyone.
    • Presumably if Lombard hadn't made a mistake, killed Vera, and showed no sign of suicide, Wargrave would've knocked him out and hanged him. It doesn't have to fit exactly like the poem, as noted by the bee.
    • The Sparknotes for this book point out that Lombard had an old-fashioned view of women, and thus didn't think that Vera would or could turn the tables on him like that.
      • To be fair to Lombard (which is difficult to do) in his career he will most likely have never met a woman trying to kill him, or at least not a western woman - not many of them other than missionaries knocking around the colonies. So subconsciously he fears women less.
    • In his message-in-a-bottle confession, Wargrave mentions that he was curious as to whether or not the last one standing would give into the atmosphere, and hang themselves, indicating that he was prepared if they didn't.
    • Lombard, as usual, doesn't really give a shit, and the scene's dialogue reflects this.
    • Also the ones he abandoned were "natives" who he probably thought was subhuman or at least inferior being written in the 1930's By his way of thinking abandoning a bunch of "natives" is a far cry from killing Whites.
    • As for what Wargrave would have done if Lombard shot Vera and didn't kill himself, he probably could have won even if he failed to take Lombard by surprise to murder him. So, imagine, Lombard won, either by killing or subduing the judge. Good for him. Now, the authorities arrive. If Wargrave is dead, they have an island with one living man and nine bodies. For two of them (Vera and the judge), they may even have material evidences that Lombard killed them. What will happen? Lombard will be tried for murder and hanged, just like in the nursery rhyme. If Wargrave is still alive, it will be Lombard's word against his. In 1930s Britain, whith the class system of the time, who do you think the police will probably believe? The respected old judge that seems physically unable to kill someone? Or a man known for being an unscrupulous adventurer? Oh, and if Lombard flees (he could attack Fred Naracott and steal his boat when the latter came to check if things were all right), he will appear as the culprit and the police will track him.
      • In the latter case the police might still get suspicious about the fact that Wargrave survived despite the written evidence (the diaries, remember?) to the contrary. At least they're unlikely to be so gullible as Armstrong.

  • A minor point, but notable anyway. Wargrave was not a Chancery judge, but his line in the rhyme said he was. Chancery judges don't hear criminal cases. Perhaps it means something different in England.
    • Again, bee. It doesn't have to be exact.

  • This is a major plothole in the 1945 film that has always bothered this troper: In the book, the judge went to great lengths to dig up on his victims' dirty history. In the movie, it turns out that one of his victims (Vera Claythorne) is innocent (two, if you want to count Charles Morley). How could he not find out Vera was innocent? In the book, he learned about what she had done directly through the person who would have been affected by her crime the most. In the movie, her crime is changed from killing a little boy to supposedly murdering her sister's fiancee. Who would he have had to ask in the first place? The dead fiancee's mother?
    • He's a judge, and therefore capable of accessing legally any number of legal records of past crimes. He probably found out about all the crimes secondhand this way, which accounts for him making two mistakes.

  • Vera's silly death scene just bugged me.
    • Well, she started out as a very strong character, but then it was revealed later in the novel that she wasn't all that stable to begin with and she felt tremendous guilt over what she had done. Not to mention she had to watch eight people around her die within four days before being forced to kill one herself (which would be sufficient to to traumatize anyone). This, combined with the fact that the weekend was rapidly approaching the anniversary of the day she killed a little boy (and it's implied this was part of the reason the murderer chose that particular weekend: to further drive the point home to Vera), was what ultimately drove her to her complete and total breakdown at the end.
      • Does she feel guilt? I only recall her lamenting that she didn't get the payoff for her crime.
      • She's extremely traumatized and haunted by it regardless, although she isn't exactly remorseful.
    • And the alternative is for her to wait around on an island full of corpses for the police. She knows she'd be the prime suspect, and that the question of the little boy's death would also get dragged back into the public light if she's charged with this new round of murders.

  • The inclusion of Emily Brent in the victims. The Rogers deliberately murdered their employer, Vera Claythorne drowned a young boy, the General sent a man to his death, and Emily Brent fired a servant whose behavior had dissatisfied her. No, she wasn't very nice about it, but what she did is still a long way from the murder/manslaughter that the others had done. It is, in fact, hard to consider her primarily responsible for Beatrice Taylor's death (what about the girl's parents? or the guy who got her pregnant then abandoned her?)
    • True, but it's clear that Miss Brent also knew her servant had been abandoned by both the baby's father and her parents; instead of responding with compassion and assistance, she turned her out and refused to give a reference — which, in combination with the baby, meant she'd effectively made the girl unemployable. Thus a strong case can be made that Miss Brent represented the girl's last hope, and that her actions were what tipped her over the edge to suicide.
    • The fact that she'd turned her back on the servant girl out of self-righteous intolerance could well have been the deciding factor, as it made Miss Brent a Holier Than Thou hypocrite: one who callously consigned someone who desperately needed her help to despair, in the name of what's supposed to be a compassionate faith. Plus, the servant's unborn baby died too, and it certainly shouldn't have paid for its mother's faux pas.
      • The stage version pushes these factors to the forefront: Emily admits to Vera that she not only threw Beatrice Taylor out of her home, but gave her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech that may have been the deciding factor in pushing her to suicide. Emily, of course, hastens to point out that she herself did nothing wrong, or at least nothing that acted against her conscience — it was Beatrice who got pregnant out of wedlock, and it was Beatrice who chose to kill herself.
    • Remember, U.N. Owen kills his victims in order of increasing moral culpability, so the first few had to be less flagrantly to blame than the rest. Emily is the least remorseful of the ones who'd killed people through indirect action (withholding medicine, giving suicidal orders, steering a jury) rather than direct and willful crimes (stealing supplies, planting evidence, leading a poor swimmer to the beach). Anthony Marston, the least remorseful of all, goes first because Owen has pegged him for a complete sociopath, incapable of having his nerves racked by guilt no matter how Wargrave might've taunted them all.

  • If U.N. Owen kills his victims in order of increasing moral culpability, isn't Armstrong's place in the order unfair? He comes after people who deliberately killed others. He operated on a woman while drunk and killed her, but that was an accident; he didn't want her to die, it was in fact the last thing he wanted. And he learned from it and stopped drinking. Sure, he didn't take responsibility, but still, I can't see him being worse than Rogers or Macarthur.
    • Owen answers this in his letter. He says that Blore and Armstrong's crimes are particularly heinous as they are men in respected positions of power, which makes their actions worse. If you want to argue Armstrong is ranked too high since he didn't mean to kill the woman he operated on, you could make the same case for Blore: he perjured himself so the man went to jail - he didn't know he was going to die. That's something the 2015 miniseries addresses nicely in my opinion.
    • Calling it an 'accident' is a bit disingenuous. Armstrong made the choice to drink prior to operating — even if it were an unexpected emergency, which the book implies isn't the case, he would still have deliberately indulged knowing he might be called in to the hospital at any time. And he then deliberately made the choice to operate while drunk, which, I'd suggest, a person still sober enough to be able to operate at all might also be capable of considering a bad idea. I think U.N. Owen's ranking here was motivated by degree of self-indulgence. Rogers gave in to obvious opportunity, Macarthur to blind rage and jealousy; not great excuses certainly, but Armstrong's excuse was even weaker.
    • The book does seem to suggest that Wargrave had something of a grudge against doctors in general, perhaps due to his recent diagnosis. He could have allowed this to affect his judgement. Also, Armstrong had a vital role to play in Wargrave's plan, so he had to remain alive until then.
    • In fact, the only people explicitly ranked by their guilt in Owen's confession are Marston as the least culpable, Rodgers couple as the second and third ones, and Vera as the most culpable one. So the murderer probably didn't have an A to Z ranking of everybody. Moreover, in the murderer's mind the necessity of killing everybody clearly took precedence to following even this inexact order: e.g., after Vera left the house along with Blore and Lombard there was no way for Owen to be sure that it will be her who gonna make it to the very end. Actually, one could argue that the "just" order was probably broken at the very beginning, as Isaac Morris' culpability is hardly less than Marston's one.

  • The actions of Lombard and Vera Claythorne at the end. They were together when Blore was murdered. They knew that neither of them could be the killer. If they had kept that knowledge in mind, they could have stayed where they were and survived. Yes, yes, they were panicking, but turning on the one person you know isn't the murderer is a level of stupid that I have a hard time understanding.
    • They don't know for sure that neither of them could be the killer; what they do know for sure, or at least think they know, is that they're the only people left alive on the island. Their natural assumption — as made clear in the text — is that Blore's death by falling statuette was 'a trick' rigged up earlier; if that's true, then one of the survivors must be U.N. Owen, and Vera and Philip both think: "Well, it's not me, so..."
    • This situation's called Hostile Suspicion Chain. B knows V isn't a killer, but he's not sure if V knows that B knows that V isn't the killer. Same on the other side.
      • Plus, both of them are pretty sure by then that the other is capable of murder: there's been too much confirmation that everyone else on the island was guilty, so why doubt Owen's word about their past crimes, now? In which case, even if the other survivor is not the killer, they still might opt to attack the only other remaining suspect in self-defense. It's not just the actual killer they have to fear, it's the other survivor's belief that they're the killer.
    • According to the poem sitting out in the sun frizzled their minds plus they weren't eating for fear of entering the house.
    • this is also sealed up a bit during the 2015 miniseries; Vera and Phillip run to the kitchen for supplies, then out of the house. When Blore doesn't join them, Phillip tells Vera 'stay there' and runs to the house to find Blore dead in the main hall. Vera can't stand waiting behind more than a few minutes, and finds him standing over Blore's body. While it reinforces Phillip's conviction that UN Owen is still somewhere on the island and killed Blore, it plays into the Hostile Suspicion chain mentioned above on Vera's part. Mind you, it also means that Vera doesn't notice that Phillip doesn't have any fresh blood on him, even though Blore has been stabbed to death (the way Blore's fallen, you can't tell that the killer used the bearskin to shield himself from the blood). So it still overly relies on the 'fear and panic' bit, at least on Vera's part.

  • Just how insane must one be to find the original name of the novel offensive?
    • What, Ten Little Niggers? Gee, I have no idea. Seriously, I think you're referring to the second original title, Ten Little Indians. Not anywhere near as bad, no, but still unnecessary. (Both titles, BTW, reference a nursery rhyme that runs through the book, which has likewise been updated through the years.)
    • Ten Little Yidies, Ten Little Jhonnies (19th centriy Chinese immigrant in Britain), there's a variation of any race if you want to find one. Seriously.
      • Actually, I was refering to the first one, it's just that in Soviet Russia the name of the novel was completely deprieved of any derogatory undertone and sounds like "Ten little negroes". I saw the name written like this in the Web and assumed it was like this initially. I couldn't imagine that they would feature a derogatory variant of the word in the name of a book for no reason.
      • "Negro" isn't exactly an accepted term anymore either, at least in America.
      • What is true in US is not true in the rest of the world. At last in Latin America the term 'negro' is fairly acceptable one (not "politically correct", but not derogatory either. I don't know how things went in Russia, but in Brazil the name change(at 2008) was considered unnecessary.
      • In Russia the word "negryityata" used in the title's translation has no racist or in any way negative connotations at all. Believe a native Russian speaker in this. There is a racist synonym that can roughly be translated as "black-faced", but "negr" is perfectly neutral and has never had the pejorative meaning it has in English.
      • In Spanish "negro" is equivalent to two English words, "black" and "negro", which makes it a bit odd that one is still a fairly acceptable term for black people in the U.S. while the other isn't.
    • Their retcons annoy me. First they change it to Ten Little Indians, and then to And Then There Were None? Can't they just accept that the title is an artifact of the times and move the fuck on?
      • Oh, how terrible that they change something that doesn't affect the plot at all out of a desire to make it less racist. Grow up.
      • Well, considering that black rappers tend to overuse this particular word to no end in their songs and nobody seems to be offended by that, what would be wrong in keeping it in the title of classic, well-known crime novel?
      • A) Plenty of people are offended by that kind of rap music and judging the whole world by one very specific audience is ridiculous. B) Black musicians using the term carries an entirely different connotation than a white author doing so. C) My high school performed the play and I know several people who were assigned the novel — neither of which would be possible if the original title was maintained. The title carries no significance to the story in any way, which makes it not only offensive but useless and offensive. Please note that Lombard's casual racism is left intact since that actually impacts the story. Damn publishers, deciding that maybe society should start acting like everyone has feelings and realizing that there are a lot of people who won't support their company by purchasing something that upholds casual institutional racism.
    • Agreed. The title used a racist word because the name of the existing nursery rhyme invoked happened to have it as well, not out of racism of its own. Had the rhyme been called "Ethel the Aadvark Goes Quantity Surveying" then that would have been the title of the book as well, it was just a matter of happenstance. Not to mention that "And Then There Were None" is a much more spoilerific title.
      • It can hardly be called a spoiler when the rhyme appears in chapter 2 and the whole of chapter 3 is realizing they've been lured to an isolated location with the aforementioned rhyme prominently displayed in nearly every room in the house. The intent is clear very early, and intent does not imply success.
      • ^^^ You two DO remember that that was the last line in the poem, yes? Really, initially the reader could just assume that it was a reference to that, given how there is a murderer who is running around killing people based on the poem. Of course, given how everybody knows the ending at this point, it's rather irrelevant.

  • Part of why Christie changed the ending for the play is that she caught on to a fairly large hole in the killer's plan.
    • You mean what would have happened if Vera had missed when she shot Lombard?
      • She was shooting at a man several feet in front of her that was also running towards her. Any person that can aim worth a damn would hit said person. The bullet possibly not killing him is another matter though.
      • I rather think the hole in the plan was the chance that he'd notice her stealing the gun. After all, she was purely lucky (well, if you can call outliving him by ten minutes and hanging herself luck) he had slipped it into his outer pocket.
    • In the novel it was made pretty clear the last 3 deaths were not really part of any plan. Wargrave just knew that, since they had a gun, they would likely to kill each other at some point and just waited to an opportunity to drop the "bear" on the first person to passed by.
      • Also, if EVERYTHING somehow went wrong and one or even two people survived - Wargrave is still alive. He has a massive advantage of surprise. I'm pretty sure that he could take care of Lombard and Vera (Or possibly even Lombard and Blore, but the chances of BOTH surviving, particularly with the bear, are slim to none) by himself.
    • Even if there'd been a last survivor, Wargrave might still have gotten his way. Whomever was left behind on the island would naturally be blamed for the murders, and hanged for them. Technically that wouldn't match the poem's suicide, but Jedi Truth could always claim that they'd put themselves into the noose by committing their original crime, and then coming to the island in the first place!
    • No, Christie changed the ending to all of her books adapted to plays in which the killer escapes in the book. Best example is Witness for the Prosecution, where she changed the ending.

  • In the Hollywood movies (not the Russian version or the BBC miniseries), the real Lombard killed himself after receiving the letter from "Mr. Owen", and Morley impersonates Lombard to get to the bottom of it. But why would the letter prompt Lombard to kill himself? The whole point of the letter was to goad the victims to the island without raising any suspicion of the real reason for the invite.
    • He caught on better than Wargrave hoped, obviously. We never hear the exact contents of the note in the movie.
    • But in the book, he felt very little, if any, remorse for his crime at all. He was one of few guests to openly admit to his accusation being true, justifying it with "Self-preservation is man's first duty". What would he have had to kill himself over? The judge in the movie said the letter had sounded "threatening"...of what?
      • It should be remembered that while this might be true in the book, in the movie the man we see making that statement, as it turns out, is not the actual Lombard. Morley was presumably acting in a way that he thought the people around him would find plausible in a ruthless quasi-mercenary. Could be that the real Lombard had been tormented by guilt over what he had done ever since and snapped for whatever reason.
    • Possibly he feared revenge by the families of the men he'd left to die? We don't know anything about them, so it's possible that they came from a culture where it's common for avenging relatives to pursue a vendetta at all costs. He read the note, and jumped to the (false) conclusion that "Mr. Owen" was going to torture him to death for his betrayal, and/or kill everyone he cared about along with him, making suicide the only way to avoid a worse fate.
      • It is very clear that Lombard was at the end of his financial tether when the offer from UN Owen was conveyed to him by Morris. The Lombard we see on the island has a strong instinct of self-preservation, and an instinct for survival; but it is not hard to imagine a slightly different Lombard deciding that being reduced to such straits would be no way to live, and killing himself accordingly.

  • When Wargrave asks for Armstrong's help in faking his death, wouldn't Armstrong have realized that the next verse of the rhyme referred to a judge, and thought something was up?
    • Armstrong should have known that something was up long before that. The red curtain and Miss Brent's knitting went missing when Rogers was still alive, so Wargrave was clearly planning to be victim #5 even while victims #s 6&7 were still alive.
    • You'd think, yes. Wargrave specifically mentions that Armstrong should've made the connexion to the red herring bit, but he never did, evidently mesmerised by the Judge's status and celebrity. Remember, the doctor's been shown to be something of a social climber. (He'd also actually met the Judge before the novel, as a witness in a trial, so he knew the Judge was the real deal and was inclined to trust him).
      • Plus, the Chancery line being next makes Wargrave's plan to fake his death sounds more reasonable: only Owen will be caught completely off-guard if the Judge is found dead (because he'll know he didn't kill him), possibly tricking the murderer into crying "That's impossible!" or otherwise betraying himself in surprise. And Armstrong might've assumed that Wargrave wanted to do something drastic before his turn to die comes up, for self-preservation's sake.
    • Moreover, what did Wargrave lead Armstrong to think the real killer was likely to do, when the Judge "turned up dead"? Burst out with a confession at the sight of him lying there? Sneak into Wargrave's room to stab "the corpse"?
      • Presumably if the killer had been someone else, he or she would've made some attempt to examine the Judge's corpse. If the killer hadn't been in on the ruse, he or she couldn't be 100% certain if the Judge was faking without a closer look. Everyone on the island is guilty of somebody's death already, after all, and it's certainly conceivable that someone who's not U.N. Owen could have bumped off Wargrave in the belief that he was their "host", then not admitted it to the others.
      • Wargrave notes in his confession that he sold the plan to Armstrong in part by noting that if he was 'dead', then he would have the freedom to observe the others without them noticing and thus would have a good chance of catching the murderer off-guard.

  • The police don't ask what seems to me a logical question: Was one of the ten victims terminally ill?
    • How would they find out if one victim was terminally ill? Autopsies were pretty primitive back then and they would take more notice of the obvious bullet wound. This was the age before universal healthcare and electronic records so the only person who would know would be Wargrave's personal doctor...who would not be able to release medical records without Wargrave or his next of kins' permission.
    • There's nothing to suggest that Wargrave was dying, other than his confession. And anyway, not all murderers commit their murders because they're terminally ill.

  • Why didn't they try collecting all the figurines and locking them a box so the murderer can't get to them? If he's going to signal his actions by stealing the figurines, then putting them someplace where it's highly obvious who's trying to get to them will help them find him faster.
    • Because Owen would've obviously not bothered with the locked box. It's symbolic, but not instrumental to his plan.
    • Considering the thoroughness of U.N. Owen's planning, he may have had a second set of figurines concealed on the island somewhere, just in case. Certainly it'd help ramp up the paranoia if the figurines mysteriously reappeared after being locked up.
    • Rogers DOES try this, locking the figurines in a cabinet the night before he is killed, the killer just lifts the key from him after murdering him.

  • Wargrave must have very distinctive and hard-to-copy handwriting. Otherwise, why would a message in a bottle that purports to be his confession be taken seriously?
    • As a judge, there'd be plenty of samples available which might argue FOR forgery, but a casual prankster wouldn't have bothered, and what the letter asserts in the contents themselves are easily checked out.
    • Leaving aside the fact that, as a judge, Wargrave will have written lots of things (verdicts, opinions, rulings, articles, etc.) that can be checked against what he's written, it's also worth noting that Wargrave also makes a point of discussing various people who he talked to in order to get background information on his various targets — i.e. potential witnesses. All the police have to do is show them a photograph of Wargrave and ask "Hey, did you have a conversation with this guy about [X] at any point?", and all one of them has to do is say "Oh yeah, I remember him," for his story to be validated. It's not like the police have any better leads after all. And hey, if they believe him them Wargrave gets to point out how clever he's been, but they don't believe him or can't confirm his story then Wargrave's unsolvable murder remains unsolvable. Win-win.

  • Putting aside from the default "they're not thinking straight by that point" answer, shouldn't Wargave's "murder" have tipped others off? Vera obviously couldn't have done it, but all three remaning men ran to her aid together, leaving the judge behind, meaning that none of them could've killed him either! Which only leaves, well, Wargrave himself - he either killed himself or faked it, either way he's Owen.
    • They were all so distracted getting to Vera, that none of them registered who and who wasn't there at the time, and the killer could have easily slipped back, killed Wargrave, and then rejoined them before anyone realized what was up. IIRC, in the book, they themselves even mention that between their shouting and running, plus Vera screaming and the storm, none of them would even have heard the gunshot.
    • Vera could also have theoretically rigged up a recording of herself screaming to send the other men off on a wild goose chase while she offed Wargrave elsewhere. Unlikely perhaps, but they've already had one cute trick with a record played on them, they're pretty paranoid by this point, and they can't rule it out for certain.
    • While they all run up together, they don't all stay there together. At various points Lombard and (IIRC) Blore both leave the room in search of brandy to calm Vera's nerves. Either of them could have offed Wargrave. There's also not necessarily an iron-clad guarantee that the same person who killed Wargrave is the same person who's killed / killing the others — as noted elsewhere, every person on that island has murdered someone else, after all.

  • If it's clear that the killer relies on his anonymity and can only kill one-on-one, isn't the obvious solution to always stay together? Walk around in groups only, sleep all together in the living room (it's an emergency, to hell with the decorums), keeping watch in turns - seems like a no-brainer, especially for an experienced soldier and survivalist like Lombard.
    • The matter is that they did attempt this strategy for a time. By the time they were all forced to acknowledge murder, three people had been killed, but they were all hanging on to the fact that they would be safe knowing there was a culprit. The next day, Rogers went out alone on account of not being a very clever person and was killed. At that point Wargrave proposed staying together once they've had a brief rest after lunch. During that break, Emily Brent was killed, which isn't too surprising considering who proposed the break instead of immediately getting together. At that point there were five people left, and they adopted the strategy of only letting one person leave at a time; the theory being that a person alone should be fine as long as everyone else is together. The problem was that it was too little too late since Wargrave already had Armstrong wrapped around his finger to help fake a death and get him alone. At that point it was just the last three left and the events played out as we saw. Blore went off on his own at that point being fed up with everything and hungry, thinking he would be safe since the other two would be far away.
    • Sleeping together just wouldn't have worked since everyone would have probably stayed up all through the night trying to catch the murderer making a move or trying to avoid being a nighttime victim. Adding lack of sleep to an already high tension situation wouldn't have worked out very well. Even more so since the person who would be affected the least by the lack of sleep would be Wargrave, who frequently rests throughout the day and didn't have the mental stress of not knowing the killer.
      • I meant sleeping in turns, obviously - one group sleeps, the other keeps watch. And yeah, it should've been adopted right after Roger is killed, of course. "Only letting one person leave at a time" is a stupid strategy, since if you're letting the killer go, he's just having a free rein to set up traps.
      • You mean three people sleeping, three people awake (after Rogers' murder there are just six left of them)? And of course, Miss Brent and Justice Wargrave are in the different groups as the most physically unfit ones. Might have worked, I guess.
    • Being all together with one person leaving at once seems reasonable, but when in an adaptation does bring a lot more questions up: Vera walking around alone in all the creepy staff quarters of the house? She looks tense; this is because it's less secure in your mind that the killer has to be one of the living guests. Owen could be real and hiding on the island, likely in the staff quarters if anywhere: the guests can't be sure in either case.

  • The Rogers have been employed by the Owens for how long? From their activities, it has to be a decent length of time. They also don't recognise Wargrave. Are you saying that they've never met their employer and just get paid to live in the house, with notes delivered by Narracott?
    • Yes, that's exactly what we're saying. It says as much in the book. I believe that the Rogers have only been there for a week or so, and it explicitly states that they haven't met the Owens.

  • This is just going off the BBC adaptation, so the novel or play could give an explanation, but how did the killer know that MacArthur would 'say he'd stay there' and thus fulfil that line of the poem? He could have had had some sort of psychological insight into MacArthur's personality and mental state and guessed that he'd accept his fate, but it's still a hell of a gamble to assume that MacArthur would even accept that they would all die on the island, let alone actually verbalise it in a way that connects him to the poem. Obviously he would still be killed, it just wouldn't be as symbolic and wouldn't fit the poem.
    • The killer didn't know he would say that, so yes, him saying it was a coincidence that dotted the i. The killer is often quite liberal with the poem - for example, Lombard wasn't frizzled up by the sun, but shot. Macarthur didn't need to literally say he would stay in Devon, as long as he would do so, i.e. die there. That being said, the killer was aware of Macarthur's regret over what he had done. It's why he got to die so soon, and without pain (the first hit immediately killed him).
    • The novel has the killer, in the epilogue, briefly discuss the lengths that were undertaken in order to find and research potential victims, so we can infer that something similar probably happened in the miniseries (since it's a reasonably close adaptation). Much is also made about how MacArthur gradually retreated into isolation and self-exile after what he had done, so he probably picked up on it. In any case, overall the killer does seem to have a fairly good grasp of psychology, being able to pinpoint Marston's self-absorbed narcissism and Vera's issues about the sea among others, so it's likely that there is some kind of insight going on.

  • Part of Wargraves plan involves creating a mystery that will remain unsolved after the fact. Okay, so far so good, but that plan relies on a) Armstrong's body washing back ashore after his death, and b) someone carrying his body above the hide tide line after the fact. It's doubtful Wargrave himself could have done this by himself, even if the tide was kind enough to place the body in a place where this was even possible. Had this not happened, the police would have assumed Armstrong simply killed himself after killing everyone else, which they were prepared to do until noticing his body had been dragged to a safe place after his body washed ashore.
    • It was just a cherry on top. He would've still gone out in the blaze of glory as he mainly wished. If the mystery part also works, then all the better, if not, oh well.
    • He's also gonna be dead if and when that happens. He's not gonna care either way by that point.
      • He saw how Vera killed Lombard, which means he must have seen the dragging of Armstrong's body. So he knew that his plan had worked to a T. And if nobody had carried Armstrong's body above the tide line, Wargrave would just have done it himself, provided that the body hadn't been washed away by then.

  • (Regarding the BBC adaptation) At the end, why does the Vera suddenly get so interested in self-preservation when Wargrave reveals himself? A moment ago she was overcome with suicidal guilt. What has changed?
    • Maybe she's not suicidal out of guilt, but out of hopelessness at avoiding death. When she sees Wargrave, she realizes a way out.
    • "What has changed?" Well, she knows Wargrave is still alive for one. Her suicide is pretty clearly part of a delusional haze state that the stress and trauma of her situation has reduced her to, and the shock of seeing Wargrave alive has clearly snapped her out of it. Since Wargrave is also pretty clearly the murderer, she also likely realises that she's been dancing to his tune all along, which has prompted a bit of a rethink on the whole 'suicide' thing.
    • Before Wargrave appears. she thinks she is likely to be hanged as a murderess, as the only survivor of the carnage. Might as well beat them to it. After he appears, she realizes she has two possible escapes: either (1) she can team up with the judge, who knows the law inside out and may be able to beat their murder charges, or (2) put all the blame on the judge, whom she now knows to be the guilty one.

  • Armstrong's death could appear to be self-inflicted, which messes up Wargrave's plan to create an unsolvable crime scene. Now it looks like Armstrong killed everyone, then killed himself, and washed up on the rocks.
    • This was the initial assumption, until they realized that someone had moved his body above the tide line after he washed up, meaning he couldn't have been the last one to die.

  • Wargrave's damn lucky nobody thought to check his pulse after he was "murdered". Yes, he'd apparently been rather messily killed, but Armstrong was a doctor — he ought to have felt for a pulse anyway, no matter how unlikely it would be to find one. Also, Armstrong really ought to have realized something was up when Wargrave's "corpse" didn't display chilled skin or rigor mortis. Yeah, Armstrong's a drunk, but Wargrave had no way of knowing he'd be that inept, and if he'd bothered to actually do his job, the entire plot would have fallen apart. That was a pretty damn big gamble.
    • Armstrong was by this point Wargrave's accomplice, remember? He was part of the fakery.
      • The gamble's in another part. What if someone else reached Wargrave's body first and checked the pulse? The rest of the (not present) signs of death was a professional thing, and there was little light in the room, but no one could have mistaken the pulse!
      • When someone's crumpled over on the floor clearly seriously injured and possibly dead, most people's initial instincts would likely be to get out of the way and let the only medical professional present do his thing. Part of the point of the novel, after all, is that these people often remain fatally trapped within their expected social roles and expectations to their detriment.

  • In the novel, Wargrave uses seeweed to spook Vera, and distract the men to stage his own murder. In the 2015 miniseries she... has a hullucination about Cyril's hand grabbing her. Surely that couldn't have been a part of Wargrave's plan. Still, he uses the same preparation-heavy set-up: cape, wig, fake bullet hole. But how could he possibly predict that he'd get an opportunity to use them?

  • In the Epilogue, Justice Wargrave goes into elaborate detail how he went about with each murder and subsequently, killing himself in the denouement of the Novel. He further elaborates how he looped an elastic cord through Lombard's handgun and tied one end on to his glasses, with the other end looped around the doorknob of an open door. The gun's recoil upon opening fire would then propel the gun out of the room and into the adjacent hallway. Rather far-fetched and elaborate, I'm wondering if this would have been even physically possible to pull off, considering Wargrave literally only had one shot at this, no puns intended. Notably, luck was on his side during most of the events in the Novel.
    • Wargrave only had one opportunity to actually shoot himself, but he could easily have experimented with everything else: letting go of the gun and seeing what the elastic cord did. He probably had a great deal of confidence about what he thought would happen when he shot himself for real.

  • The killer is very lucky during Macarthur's murder. Not only does no one see him do it, the others fail to provide themselves with good alibis. Blore, Lombard and Armstrong search the island together that first morning for their missing host/murderer. They all split up at one point, Blore to fetch rope and Lombard to investigate the chance of signalling the mainland. After Macarthur is found dead, none of the three have a perfect alibi for their time. If they'd stayed together, Blore and Lombard would have been exonerated very early on and trusted from that point onwards. (Armstrong's case is worse as he had a second chance to kill Macarthur when he found the body.)
    • He's certainly lucky that nobody noticed him murdering Macarthur, but I suppose he actually counted on them splitting up. Remember, at that time they're still pretty sure that the murderer (IF there's a murderer - at the moment there's still a possibility, albeit slim, that there actually wasn't any) is not one of them so they don't really bother about watching one another (well, probably except Lombard, but even he's still not quite on track).

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