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Literature / And Then There Were None

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A really bad weekend getaway.
"Ladies and gentlemen! Silence, please! You are charged with the following indictments..."

And Then There Were None is, without hyperbole, one of the most famous and popular murder mysteries ever written. It is also among the best-selling novels of all time in any genre.

Agatha Christie published the novel in 1939 and later adapted the story into a play (with an Adaptational Alternate Ending) in 1943. The various film versions mostly use the play's ending or a variation thereof, which makes sense once you know the book's ending. Screen adaptations include a 1945 film, a 1965 film (titled Ten Little Indians), a 1974 film, a 1987 Russian film, a 1989 film (titled Ten Little Indians), and a 2015 BBC miniseries. The 1987 and 2015 versions are the only major adaptations that retain the original ending.

The novel has been published under several different titles, as a direct result of Values Dissonance. It was originally published in the UK as Ten Little Niggers, which was not shocking in 1930s Britain. In the United States, more sensitive publishers changed the title to And Then There Were None, while many earlier foreign translations kept the original title, such as Dix petits nègres in French or Zehn kleine Negerlein in German. The book was also published in English as Ten Little Indians on both sides of the Atlantic, until people eventually came to see that title as racist as well. And Then There Were None has, more or less, become the official standardized title.


But whatever its title, every serious mystery fan knows the novel's plot by heart: ten people, strangers to one another, receive invitations to an island hideaway. A mysterious recording played for the group accuses each person of having caused another person's death. Some time after the record is played, members of the group start dying one by one, each in ways similar to those in the rhyme ("Ten Little Niggers" in the original British edition, "Ten Little Indians" in many later editions, "Ten Little Soldiers" in current editions). Those still alive soon come to the only possible conclusion: one of them is killing the others. Paranoia and suspicion run high, as each person tries to outwit the killer; who can be trusted when everyone around them is dying? And how long will it be before the next one dies?


The group of ten consists of:

  • Dr. Edward George Armstrong, a medical doctor; he is accused of killing a patient while performing surgery drunk.
  • William Henry Blore, a private investigator and former policeman; he is accused of lying in court and sending an innocent man to prison, where the man died due to frail health.
  • Emily Caroline Brent, a dour and Holier Than Thou woman; she is accused of firing her maid Beatrice and turning her out of the household for getting pregnant out of wedlock, which drove Beatrice to suicide.
  • Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a young former governess turned gym teacher and secretary; she is accused of encouraging her boyfriend Hugo's little nephew, Cyril, to swim out to sea alone and drown so Hugo could inherit the estate of Cyril's father.
  • Captain Philip Lombard, a cool-headed and intelligent man; he is accused of causing the death of twenty-one African natives by abandoning them during his brief career as a mercenary. He's also the novel's Deadpan Snarker
  • General John Gordon Macarthur, a retired World War I general; he is accused of causing the death of his wife's lover by sending him on a war mission that guaranteed his death.
  • Anthony James Marston, a handsome and vain youth with little concern for others; he is accused of recklessly running over two children with his car.
  • Thomas and Ethel Rogers, the butler and the cook charged with accommodating the other eight guests; they're accused of killing their former employer, an elderly American lady, for monetary gain by withholding her medication.
  • Judge Lawrence John Wargrave, a retired Hanging Judge with a no-nonsense attitude; he is accused of steering a jury into sentencing an accused murderer to death in spite of evidence supporting the accused man's innocence.

Which of these ten hated the others enough to kill them?

This story serves as the Trope Namer for the tropes Ten Little Murder Victims and Acquitted Too Late. It is also the partial inspiration for the board game and film Clue. Some also see it as a very, very early influence on the Slasher Movie horror genre.

Not to be confused with the episode of Ben 10: Omniverse.

Given the age of the book, several plot points that could be considered spoilers are unmarked.

And Then There Were These Tropes:

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    The original book provides examples of: 
  • Acquitted Too Late: This book is the Trope Namer. Judge Wargrave remarks that only the dead are above suspicion. However, it's more of an Invoked Trope here than a straight example; once the "death proves innocence" idea takes hold, the killer fakes his own death to throw suspicion off himself.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: General Macarthur did send his wife's lover to his death but, by the time the story begins, he has become a somber man, living a rather unhappy life. Because of his act of jealousy, he's (unknowingly) condemned himself to live his retirement alone, when the rumors start to catch up with him. Also, his wife, whom he truly loved, never truly recovered after the death of her lover and died a few years after because of the 1918-1920 Spanish flu pandemic, ultimately making his action pointless. When he has to face the fact that he will never leave the island alive, he calmly accepts his fate. The 2015 BBC adaptation goes one step further by showing that he ended up regretting not letting Leslie and her lover be together.
  • Ambiguous Situation / Ambiguously Evil: Every character eventually cops to the murder they're accused of (sometimes to try to justify or rationalize it), either openly to the group, privately to another character, or in their own internal monologue. Every character, that is, except the Rogerses, whose account of their employer's death is never explicitly contradicted by the text. There's evidence for (if it was an Inheritance Murder, it certainly wasn't a very successful one given that it didn't seem improve their station much) and against (Mrs. Rogers' reaction to the gramophone recording is not that of an innocent person) this conclusion, but they're the only characters who just might be innocent.
  • Anyone Can Die: And they all do.
  • Apathetic Teacher: Vera Claythorne has shades of this at the beginning of the novel. Her regular job is being a "games mistress" (gym teacher) at what she describes as a third-class school. She has pretty much lost hope of ever working for a "decent" school, because of her past involvement in a Coroner's Inquest. And she clearly dislikes "looking after a swarm of children".
  • Asshole Victim: None of the victims is exactly an innocent, though a few are sympathetic to varying degrees, mainly the ones who had come to accept that they had done something wrong.
  • Badass Bystander: Fred Narracott senses something is wrong after he ferries everyone on the island, and goes back against Mr. Owen's orders when the storm clears. Unfortunately, by the time he arrives, everyone is dead.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Well it ain't called And Then There Were None for nothin'. The killer pulls the plan off so well that the police can't figure out what happened - although your mileage may vary on whether this person really qualifies as the "bad guy" of the story, considering the victims' own crimes.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • The murderer guesses that left alone with a gun, three paranoid people will eventually either kill each other themselves or create the favorable conditions for him to do it.
    • The murderer also guesses that none of his guests would have followed a long-closed criminal case closely enough to remember that his decision to ruin Seton's defense and get him hanged was ultimately vindicated, meaning that Wargrave's alleged murder was no such thing, making him different from the other accused killers.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Vera Claythorne and Philip Lombard meet each other by chance on a train, before actually getting to Indian Island. He daydreams about the attractive stranger, and estimates that she is a woman who can hold her own in love or war. He contemplates that "he would like to take her on". Philip has no idea at this point that he is going to face Vera in a battle to the death, and that he is staring at the woman who is going to kill him.
  • Big Bad: U.N. Owen, really Justice Lawrence Wargrave, is the killer who traps everyone in the mansion to off them one-by-one as punishment for them getting away with their crimes.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: It's easy to forget that the pretty and vulnerable Vera Claythorne drowned a small child. She also is cunning enough to get the drop on Lombard when she believes Lombard is the killer, steal the gun, and shoot him with it.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: All of the characters are guilty of some terrible deed, with some being more sympathetic. The killer himself, while a closet sadist, was also motivated by a desire to punish the guilty.
  • Brainless Beauty: Anthony Marston.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Marston and Lombard don't see the fact that they killed people as anything important; with the former barely remembering that he did kill anyone, as he is more concerned with having lost his driving licence as a result, while the latter brushes off the deaths as "just natives," instead of living, breathing people.
  • The Butler Did It: Averted; Rogers is one of the early characters to be killed off. He and his wife did commit the crime they were accused of, but this is no surprise.
  • Call-Back: Like Linnet Ridgeway in Death on the Nile, Anthony Marston is a blithe, rich, good-looking young man who embarks on a "triumphal progress" in a flashy car. Unlike his female counterpart, Marston's blitheness had lethal consequences.
  • Censored Title: The book was originally titled Ten Little Niggers; later versions were changed to Ten Little Indians or And Then There Were None. Desyat Negrityat, the Soviet movie version, kept the original title and translated it into Russian despite being produced in 1987 (though the term is not really offensive in Russian).
    • Recent versions have changed the in-world "ten little Indians" poem to "ten little soldiers". The video game changed it to "ten little sailor-boys".
    • As far as 2015, the novel is published in Spain as Diez Negritos (a literal translation from "Ten Little Niggers"). A few editions have the title Y no quedó ninguno ("And Then There Were None") and "Diez Negritos" as a clear subtitle.
    • Despite the word "nègre" being as offensive as "nigger", the original title was retained in the French edition, Dix petits nègres until 2020, when Christie's great-grandson James Pritchard requested a change. The new edition is titled Ils étaient dix ("They Were Ten").
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The hook on the ceiling in Vera's room is one.
    • The rhyme, at least when it is first introduced, may also count.
    • The marble bear clock in Vera's room that gets a brief mention near the beginning is later used to kill Blore.
    • The shower curtain and spools of Miss Brent’s knitting wool that go missing after Macarthur’s death show up again when it looks like Wargrave has been killed, due to their resemblance to a judge’s cape and wig.
    • Lombard’s revolver is a literal one. It appears as though Wargrave is shot with it, and then Vera ultimately uses it to kill Lombard himself. Then Wargrave, who faked his death, uses it to kill himself so his manner of death will match what the survivor's diaries and notes will have said about it.
  • Closed Circle: The group of ten are trapped on an island.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The storm prevents anybody from leaving the island throughout the course of the story. It's downplayed, as it was common knowledge that the island is often isolated by the storm for a week or more, at least one experienced man is able to predict its coming in advance, and, finally, the island is situated rather far from the coast anyway. Essentially, as that same man says, "you can't never tell at sea".
    • This is revealed as a Subverted Trope in the epilogue, where Inspector Maine explains that the people of Sticklehaven were instructed to cut off all communication with the island for a week after the party arrived, with the story that the people there were engaged in some sort of 'desert island' party game or wager. In the end, it does help Wargrave a bit, as Narracott is suspicious and comes to the island early, but the weather and rough seas keep him away just long enough for everyone to be killed, and for the coroner to be unable to give any of them an exact time of death.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The house is described as being very clean, bright, efficient, and modern. It is all the more jarring that its guests are all guilty of horrendous crimes—and are all meeting their end in such gruesome ways.
  • Critical Research Failure: In universe: Blore initially tries to pass himself of as a South African called Davis. But he hasn't researched his fellow guests well enough to know that Lombard is well-acquainted with South Africa, nor has has he read-up about the place itself properly. Consequently, Lombard very quickly realises that he has never been there.
  • Crying Wolf: Vera took advantage of this as a contingency in her murder plot. Her young charge had a reputation for "telling stories," so if he survived and claimed she'd encouraged him to swim that far out she could simply play innocent.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Lombard doesn't seem to think that abandoning twenty-one men to starve was all that bad because "they were only natives".
    • Lombard also sees Isaac Morris as fulfilling the Greedy Jew stereotypes.
  • Dirty Cop: Blore lied in court about James Stephen Landor because he was bribed by the real thieves. In the epilogue, Assistant Commissioner Legge says that he always considered Blore a "bad hat".
  • Downer Ending: There's a reason why only the Russian movie adaptation initially used it. It was Agatha Christie's 125th birthday before an English-language adaptation tried it.
  • The Dragon: Isaac Morris can be considered this to U.N. Owen, who made sure he got his comeuppance. As for Armstrong he fulfilled a similar role but under different circumstances as one can find in a certain entree.
  • Dramatic Drop: When the record is played and Rogers hears the accusation against him and his wife, he freezes with the coffee tray in his hands — and after it ends he breaks the shocked silence by dropping the tray.
  • Driven to Suicide: Beatrice Taylor (Emily Brent's "victim") and Vera Claythorne both suffer from this.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Hugo Hamilton became an alcoholic after he realized that Vera killed Cyril for him.
  • Dwindling Party: The guests on the island are killed off one-by-one.
  • Empathic Environment: The worsening weather coincides with the worsening situation on the island.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Many of the accused show disgust at their peers' deeds, regardless of whether they show any regrets about their own ones.
    • Emily Brent calls Marston a public threat for his reckless driving and sympathises with the natives Lombard abandoned, even rebutting Vera's racist remark about them.
    • General Macarthur also shames Lombard for his unsoldierlike action.
    • Vera feels sorry for Beatrice Taylor.
    • The entire plot amounts to a case of this, as it's revealed Owen wants to murder people but refuses to harm innocents, hence why all the victims allegedly killed someone else and got away with it.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: The only named character to survive the story is Fred Narracott, unless you count the policemen who only appear in the epilogue.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: One it's clear that the deaths are not accidents, and there isn't anyone else on the island, Justice Wargrave makes it clear that every one of the surviving guests could have committed the murders. And he would know, given that he committed most of the murders on the island.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The guests arrived on Soldier Island on the 8th of August. According to the epilogue, a distress signal was spotted on the 11th and a rescue party was sent on the 12th.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Macarthur basically gives up on life as soon as it's clear the island can't be escaped, making no effort to defend himself.
  • Fake Nationality: In-Universe, Blore attempts to pass himself off as a South African named Davis, but is forced to admit his identity when "Davis" is not mentioned by the recording.
  • Final Girl: Vera Claythorne is seemingly the originator of this Final Girl trope -– in a work in which a Serial Killer preys on victims, she has the personality of The Ingenue, and is the last one standing. This, however, is an unbuilt example: unlike a straight example of a Final Girl, Vera is neither innocent nor alive at the story's end.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: How Armstrong determines what killed Marston.
  • Foregone Conclusion: At first glance, the American title seems like it's trying to entice the reader by using the last line of the nursery rhyme it follows. In actuality, anyone who's read the book knows that it's actually telling you how many characters will be left at the end.
  • Foreshadowing: General Macarthur basically gives up when he realises they can't escape from the island and says they're all going to die. He's the next person to die, and he's ultimately proven right because everyone on the island is dead by the end.
  • For the Evulz: The killer is an unusual example: he admits that he felt compelled to commit a mass murder, but his Knight Templar tendencies meant he believed all of his victims had to be evil people, people who deserved to die. Each of his victims had carried out murders that the law couldn't punish them for... but a vigilante killer could.
  • Forged Letter: The culprit sends a letter to all his victims under different names to trick them into meeting at Indian Island. He also sends a forged letter to himself and shows it off to make himself more convincing.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: The recording that announces the crimes of everyone on the island refers to them all by their full names for dramatic effect, with the exception of Lombard and the Rogerses, who apparently don’t have middle names. Lombard later remembers it and realises that Blore hasn’t been honest about his identity as the recording didn’t mention the false name he was using when he arrived.
  • Genre Blindness: It is very clear that Vera is becoming more and more genuinely unstable as the book progresses even relatively early on. This being the time period it is, the other (largely male) characters seem to more or less shrug it off because she is a woman, and, therefore, of course, overly emotional. Except for Wargrave, that is, who utilizes it to full effect.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Dr. Armstrong slaps Vera when she goes a bit loopy asking about bees. It seems to sober her up.
  • Guilt-Induced Nightmare: In the Soviet adaptation, after the characters have already been subjected to two and a half days of psychological torment, Lombard, who has previously left twenty-one Africans to their deaths, has a Deliberately Monochrome nightmare of being back in the African jungle and fighting and strangling a zombie African who lunges at him from a swamp. This being Lombard, however, the nightmare doesn't change his attitude for the better.
  • Hanging Judge: Wargrave is infamous for his liberal use of death sentencing. Subverted in the end, when Wargrave makes it clear that everyone he sentenced to death deserved it, and that he stopped more than one case before him where death was the potential sentence, but he found the prosecution's evidence lacking to support the sentence.
  • Haunted Heroine: Vera Claythorne's monologues shows that she's haunted by the death of her charge Cyril, and the strain it puts to her relationship with his uncle, and her lover, Hugo.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: General Macarthur's thoughts on Captain Philip Lombard: "That fellow Lombard now, he was a queer chap. Not straight. He'd swear the man wasn't straight."
    • Also, there were startled and shocked ejaculations.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The three women. Vera is the maiden (the youngest, prettiest and most romantic), Mrs. Rogers is the mother (middle-aged, married and domestic), and Emily Brent is the crone (an elderly, bitter spinster with contempt for anyone who doesn't fit her standards).
  • Holier Than Thou: Emily Brent is a deeply religious woman whose convictions made her think herself as more righteous than the other, common "sinners".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Lombard is adamant about keeping hold of his revolver, seeming to believe that if he's armed, he's untouchable. When the gun is mysteriously returned to him after Wargrave's is seemingly killed by it, he thinks nothing of it, and is just pleased to have it in his possession. Blore attempts to convince him to get rid of it, but Lombard refuses. Because he keeps it on his person for the remainder of the novel for "protection," Vera is easily able to steal it from him when he's distracted by moving Armstrong's body, and Lombard ends up getting shot and killed by Vera with his own gun.
  • Insists on Being Suspected: Judge Wargrave, in the spirit of intellectual honesty, admits when he has a weak alibi — he can give his word as to what he was doing when Macarthur died, but he can't back it up.
    Wargrave: I sat on that chair on the terrace for the whole morning until the gong went, but there were, I should imagine, several periods during the morning when I was quite unobserved and during which it would have been possible for me to walk down to the sea, kill the General, and return to my chair. There is only my word for the fact that I never left the terrace. In the circumstances that is not enough. There must be proof.
  • Interface Spoiler: At one point in the book when suspicions are starting to peak, the surviving characters' thoughts are rapidly revealed, including the killer noting they successfully tricked another survivor. This is fine in the book, since the quotes are unattributed. The audiobook is a different story as the killer's line is read in their character's own voice, all but telling you who the killer is around 65% of the way through.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: This was one of Christie's favourite tropes. In this book, such a song is central to the plot.
  • Irony: Only one of the guests is innocent of the crime they were accused of... and that person is the killer. Bonus points to Dame Agatha for explicitly making it a clue in the story.
  • It's All About Me: Anthony Marston fails to understand that the death of John and Lucy Combes was not just about the inconvenience of losing his license. The killer believes Marston's excessive narcisissm makes him a danger to himself and others and killing him would do everyone a favor. Not to mention Marston is too-lacking in self-awareness to feel any terror or guilt that the killer could relish in.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: When Emily Brent and Vera Claythorne are discussing Philip Lombard's guilt, the self-righteous Miss Brent is adamant that Lombard is guilty for abandoning twenty-one natives: "Black or white, they are our brothers." Vera starts laughing at this idea, though her sanity has been fraying steadily throughout the novel. Her laughter also makes more sense when you consider the original title — "our black brothers" being the subject of the Ironic Nursery Tune.
  • Judicial Wig: When Judge Wargrave is (apparently) shot and killed, part of what he was dressed in includes one, made up of Emily Brent's knitting wool.
  • Karma Houdini: Every single one of the guests had allegedly (and, with the exception of the killer, actually) caused the death of at least one person without facing justice for it. U.N. Owen had arranged for them all to come to Soldier Island so that they could all finally pay for their crimes.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Some of the guests are harder to feel sorry for than others.
  • Kill 'Em All: When the authorities arrive, they find ten bodies. And then there were none.
  • Knight Templar: Wargrave was a borderline psychopath, but he still retained some morals. He preferred to use the law to get what he wanted, so he targeted only those who were truly guilty. He also pursued law as a profession to sate his killing desire by sentencing guilty people to death, when the verdict was necessary. It's only the knowledge that he has terminal cancer that finally drives him to carry out his plan and actually commit multiple murders by his own hand.
  • Last Survivor Suicide: This is done twice in the same book. Vera commits suicide out of guilt during the story proper. In the epilogue, we see Wargrave, who was alive at the time, commit suicide to leave a perfect puzzle. This also completes his view of justice, as he had considered himself innocent until he started killing people.
  • Locked Room Mystery: the police arrive, all they find are ten dead bodies on an island, each with times and manners of death that completely contradict each other. Specifically, the final four deaths of Armstrong, Blore, Lombard, and Vera. There's no way any of them could have been killed without someone else being alive, yet no one else was on the island.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Macarthur found out about his wife's affair with Arthur Richmond when she accidentally sent a letter meant for Richmond to him.
  • Meaningful Echo: Early in the book, Lombard, trying to get out of an awkward conversation, pretends there is a wasp on Vera's arm and 'pounces' to scare it away. At the end of the book, when they are the only two left on the island and he realizes she has the revolver, he distracts her with conversation, then 'pounces' to try and get it from her. It doesn't go well for him.
  • Meaningful Name: The judge's first name is, appropriately, named Lawrence. His surname is Wargrave, and he turns out to be the killer. His title of Justice also counts as a subtle case of Foreshadowing as to his motives.
  • Message in a Bottle: In the epilogue, the police discover a message in a bottle, written by the killer, describing their motive and methods of murder.
  • Mind Rape: Every single victim (except for Anthony Marston, who is such a narcissist that he can't understand he did anything wrong and, as such, is chosen as the first to die) goes through a mild version of this thanks to U.N. Owen. The one who gets the worst of it is Vera Claythorne.
  • Mistaken Death Confirmation: When the survivors find Judge Wargrave apparently shot in the head, Dr. Armstrong quickly checks his pulse and declares him dead. However, Wargrave and Armstrong had conspired to fake Wargrave's death, as Wargrave had convinced Armstrong that this was the best way to catch the murderer. Unfortunately for Armstrong, Wargrave is the murderer and quickly disposes of Armstrong.
  • Moral Sociopathy: This turns out to be a key part of U.N. Owen's motive. When young, he realised that he had sadistic and murderous tendencies, but these were coupled with a moral code that found the killing of an innocent person repugnant. So, after receiving a terminal diagnosis as an adult, he decided to bring together a group of people who had committed murders that the justice system couldn't punish them for as a way of satisfying both his desire to murder and his sense of justice.
  • More than Mind Control: Vera Claythorne has been slowly going insane over the course of the novel due to her own guilt and the Mind Rape that's been going on alongside the murders. So, when she ends up the last one left, she walks up to her room, sees the noose hanging, smells the sea, which is how she committed her murder, feels the presence of Hugo, the man she loved, who seemingly urges her to do what's right, and decides that she has to kill herself because that's how the rhyme goes.
  • Murder by Inaction: The Rogerses killed their employer by withholding her medication while she suffered a heart attack.
  • Murder-Suicide:
    • Wargrave commits suicide after arranging the deaths of everyone else, as he feels himself to be no better than his victims. Besides, he's dying anyway — the story vaguely implies that he has late-stage cancer — and he wants to go out on his own terms.
    • Vera commits suicide by hanging after shooting Lombard on the beach.
    • The guests also convince themselves Marston committed suicide after he dies, as he's the first death. Some of the others don't fully buy it, but they have no other explanation...Until they figure out that there is a killer there, and it's one of them.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Wargrave" is a rather fitting name for a Hanging Judge. Plus the fact that he's the killer.
  • Old, Dark House: Averted. The story takes place in a normal, recently-built modern house. The narrator even remarks that, to some of the guests, the horror of the situation is exacerbated by everything happening in a nice modern house with no grotesque Gothic architectural features, no hidden nooks or dark corners, and nice bright electric lighting (when the generator's running).
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • There are two Edwards — Armstrong and Seton — but the former is mostly known by his surname. They both happen to be connected to Wargrave.
    • Rogers and Assistant-Commissioner Legge are both Thomases.
      • Wargrave's middle name, John, is the same as General Macarthur's first name, while Marston's middle name, James, is the same as James Landor.
  • The Perfect Crime: All of Judge Wargrave's invited guests show up as expected, and he's able to kill them himself, or, in Vera's case, dupe them into killing each other so that everyone dies. He dupes the doctor into helping him fake his death, so he'll stop being suspected as the killer, then murders the doctor afterwards, kills Blore, watches Vrea kill Lombard, and then he then watches Vera hang herself out of shock and guilt, believing she's the only one left, puts the chair she stood on back against the wall to let the authorities know someone was alive AFTER she hanged herself, and then uses elastic cord on Lombard's gun to shoot himself in the head, as he knows others have journaled as his cause of death, letting the cord pull the gun from his hand and away from his body. He so effectively stymies the authorities that they never figure out he's the killer until they are given a confession letter that he wrote himself and that he threw into the sea, giving them one remote chance to figure out what happened, which they finally do.
  • Poetic Serial Killer: The killer uses the "Ten Little Indians" rhyme as a warning to his victims.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Lombard has no remorse about stealing from the Africans he left for dead.
    Macarthur: You abandoned your men - left them to starve?
    Lombard: Not quite the act of a pukka sahib, I'm afraid. But self-preservation's a man's first duty. And natives don't mind dying, you know. They don't feel about it as Europeans do.
    Vera: You left them to die?
    Lombard: I left them to die.
    • And also this exchange:
    Vera: They were only natives...
    Emily: Black or White, they are our brothers.
    Vera: (thinking) Our Black brothers. Our Black brothers... Oh, I'm going to laugh.
    • Lombard also refers to Isaac Morris as a "little Jewboy" and figures Morris called his bluff on his need for money because Jews just know these kinds of things.
  • Poor Communication Kills: By the time Vera and Lombard seem to be the last living people on the island, both are strained to the breaking point by fear and paranoia. They eventually turn on one another, never considering for a moment that neither of them could have possibly killed Blore. Vera shoots Lombard on the beach with his own revolver, then hangs herself shortly afterwards,completing the rhyme.
  • Properly Paranoid: Ten people are trapped on an island with no way of contacting help. Within a few days, people are slowly getting killed in gruesome ways. The remaining people don't know who the murderer is or who the next victim will be.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: People keep getting offed, there seems to be no way to prevent their own imminent demises, the guests are scared, and so, naturally, all of them are more than happy to have a dominant figure of authority such as Judge Wargrave take things over... only, as it turns out, letting somebody in the group take decisive control over matters when that person in question is just as likely as any one of you to be the murderer can be a fatal error.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Justice Wargrave swiftly establishes himself as this. As perhaps the most intelligent guest, as well as being one of the eldest (if not the oldest) and accustomed to being in charge, he assumes decisive control of the group after it is established they are all in mortal peril. He suggests the most reasonable measures to stop the killer from catching anyone alone (everyone sits in a room together and leaves one at a time). He even has the party lock up any potential weapons they might have, from Lombard's revolver to his own sleeping medication. Wargrave is also the killer.
    • Wargrave also subverts this trope: despite being a well-spoken and intelligent man, he sentenced an innocent man to death. Double subverted later, when it's revealed that Wargrave sentenced a guilty man and was always a very reasonable judge.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Okay, "redemption" might be a strong word. But most of the guests begin to feel varying degrees of guilt about their crimes. Especially true for Mrs Rogers and Macarthur. Even Emily Brent has nightmares about the girl she drove to suicide, and Vera suffers worst of all. At the end of the story, she chooses to hang herself rather than remain alive with her guilt. Averted with Marston, Blore and Lombard.
  • Red Herring: This is referred to in the poem. One character points it out, but with the wrong interpretation.
  • Red Herring Mole: While every character is a suspect (right up until they die), the one who gains the most suspicion in the latter half of the book is Armstrong — who was only a pawn in the serial killer's game.
  • Sadist: The group knows that the killer is screwing with their heads. In addition to all the Mind Rape the victims go through, the killer even kills them to mirror the nursery rhyme framed in all of their rooms just to remind the living that they're next. Wargrave claims to have been one since childhood, but controlled his impulses by being a judge and sentencing the guilty to death. He finally becomes a true serial killer when he finds out he's terminally ill, and decides to punish ten people who managed to avoid the law.
  • Serial Killer: U.N. Owen gathers 10 people on the island for the sole purpose of murdering them one by one.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The book actually contains an obscure one. Vera Claythorne mentions a story in which two Supreme Court judges come to an American town and administer justice — but they aren't really from this world at all. The reference is to The New Administration by Melville Davisson Post.
    • Also, Blore mentions the Lizzie Borden case, but not by name.
  • Sleeping with the Boss's Wife: General John MacArthur's reputed crime was sending his wife's lover, who was one of his subordinates during World War I, on a suicide mission in a ploy to get rid of him. He grows to regret his action years later.
  • Significant Monogram: U. N. Owen is discovered to be a Pseudonym, standing for "Unknown".
  • Slasher Film: In many ways, And Then There Were None can be considered the prototype for the entire slasher genre.
  • Slut-Shaming: How Emily Brent drove Beatrice Taylor to committing suicide.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: U.N. Owen kills his victims based on the order of what he sees as an increasing guilt, though it's questionable if everyone dies in the actual order he intended, or if some were determined by circumstance, or the clear opportunity to kill them at a particular time and get away with it, vs. his preferred choice.
  • Spoiled Brat: This is how Vera remembers Cyril, but given how she caused his death, it's likely that her memories are self-serving. Hugo loved Cyril, even though Cyril was the reason he didn't become a rich man.
  • A Storm Is Coming: On the way to the island, an old seadog tells Blore that a squall is on its way. Without a cloud in the sky, Blore naturally disbelieves him, only to ruefully remember the warning later on, when the island is indeed cut off by foul weather.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: This is the Trope Namer. Ten strangers are separately invited to a remote island, where, one by one, they are murdered.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Judge Wargrave either kills all of the others on the island or drives them to kill themselves and others, then commits suicide in a manner that the police could confuse for a murder. He does it for three reasons: he wants to confuse the hell out of the investigating police, punish his victims for causing the deaths of others and getting away with it, and avoid a death caused by a painful illness. He achieves every objective, and the case is only solved because he wrote out a confession that, by chance, is found floating in a bottle and given to the authorities.
  • Theme Serial Killer: The victim's deaths were patterned after the "Ten Little Indians" rhyme.
  • They Just Dont Get It: Marston was the first to die, not because his crime was lesser than the others (he ran over two children, while the second victim was pressured into denying a rich old woman her medicine), but because the killer believed he was simply too self-absorbed to understand why he was being tormented, rendering it useless to prolong his punishment. Tellingly, the other child murderer Vera Claythorne is kept for last, her sanity shredded until she commits suicide.
    "Marston, I recognized, was a type born without that feeling of moral responsibility which most of us have. He was amoral — pagan."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Armstrong is oh-so-very this. He goes along with Wargrave's scheme to fake his own death in order to safely stalk the real murderer, then allies with Wargrave—all without realizing that the killer seeing a victim that is obviously not his might get suspicious. Wargrave lampshades that he was counting on the doctor's trust, and the man was foolish to trust him. At that point of the story, the characters could get desperate and not think very rationally, but that one was taking it too far. This is semi-justified by the fact that Armstrong once testified at a trial where Wargrave was presiding. Armstrong knows Wargrave is a real judge and Wargrave knows Armstrong is a real doctor (late in the book, the others suspect Armstrong isn't a doctor). In Armstrong's mind, anyone as respectable as himself and Wargrave couldn't possibly be the killer.
  • Twist Ending: The book is renowned for its mindfuck ending. The killer is someone you thought died four victims ago. It also ends in Everybody's Dead, Dave; given the modern title, this is probably a Foregone Conclusion.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: Hugo Hamilton had told Vera that he couldn't ask her to marry him because he hadn't a penny to his name. That confession motivated Vera to do away with the boy who stood between Hugo and a huge inheritance. Too bad Hugo loved the kid more than the idea of getting rich...
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: There is a hint of this between Lombard and Vera, though the story never really explores it.
  • Uriah Gambit: This was Macarthur's method of killing his wife Leslie's lover. The story mentions that after his successful gambit, Macarthur always skipped church when Uriah's story was scheduled to be read.
  • Vigilante Execution: Wargrave invites nine (more or less) murderers to the island, so he can kill them one by one. The 10th victim is the man who served as his proxy to buy the island and invite all of the guests.
  • Vigilante Man: Judge Wargrave indulges his own lust for murder by killing people who have murdered others.
  • Villain Has a Point: The killer is certainly correct about one thing, at least. All of the victims do more or less have it coming. (Some much more than others, though)
  • Would Hurt a Child: Vera Claythorne is accused of letting a child under her care drown so that her lover (the child's uncle) could inherit a large fortune and marry her. This is revealed to be true by the end.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: This is played straight with Philip Lombard and Vera Claythorne. She shoots him to death anyway. Subverted by Dr. Armstrong, who slaps Vera when she's having a hysterical breakdown at the midway point to snap her out of it.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Wargrave had a plan in place to ensure everyone died in a manner that would fit the poem, such as bashing someone's head in with the bear clock, but the exact particulars he improvised a fair amount as well. In his letter at the end, he mentions that while he wanted to make the perfect crime and a murder mystery, the important thing was that everyone receive justice for their crimes and the dramatic appropriateness of the killings was down to no small amount luck.
  • You Are Too Late: Fred Narracott realizes something is wrong and goes back to the island as soon as the storm clears, even though Mr. Owen gave him instructions to wait a week and not answer any distress signals. He doesn't make it in time to save anyone.

    The various adaptations of this book provide examples of: 
The 2015 BBC miniseries and the 1945 film have their own pages; please put tropes applying to those versions there.

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending:
    • When Agatha Christie adapted her own novel into a play, she didn't think the ending was suitable for the atmosphere of an England that had been fighting in World War II for years. She altered the ending so the novel's most sympathetic characters proved their innocence, survived, and fell in love. The 1945 film altered that ending by introducing Charles Morley, who came to the island impersonating his friend Lombard to find out why he'd killed himself after receiving U.N. Owen's letter. These two variations on the happy ending were used for nearly all the adaptations. The Russian film version, the 2015 TV version and Kevin Elyot's 2005 stage adaptation avert this by keeping the novel's original ending, although neither film version duplicates the novel's EXACT ending.
      • In 2015 the Christie estate commissoned an official alternate ending for the version of the play that theatre companys can licenses that better follows the original books ending, though due to the condensed nature of the play's plot it still counts since it ends on Wargrave revealing his plan to Vera, who has just killed the still innocent Lombard, in a villainous speech before he makes her hang herself.
    • The Videogame has multiple endings depending on if Vera or Lombard survive. Also Emily Brent is the killer in this one... and she's an imposter.
    • It's not unheard of for stage adaptations to change the killer's identity (Mrs Rogers or Fred Narcott for example).
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Christie's stage adaptation, which most of the film versions follow, has two of the ten characters be revealed as innocent of their crimes, survive, and fall in love. These are Vera and Lombard, or Vera and Charles Morley if the latter impersonated Lombard. In the original book, those two characters are whom the murderer considered the most guilty and saved for last.
      • Vera Claythorne gets even more of this in the 1945 film: not only is she innocent, but she willingly took the blame for a crime committed by her sister (who is implied to have been mentally ill), and took care of her sister "until the end".
      • In 2015 the Christie estate added an ending to the version of the play that amatuer productions can license that follows the books ending as best as the single location play can. Due to where in the plot this ending diverges it averts Vera's adaptational heroism by retaining her status as a child murderer who shoots Lombard dead out of paranoia, but retains Lombard's by keeping his confession to Vera about trying to save his men intact, although it's up to the audience whether he's lying.
    • The Russian adaptation leaves out Wargrave's obsession with murder and paints him as more of a vigilante who got fed up with the corrupt courts and decided to stage a "perfect trial": "No sneaky rotten lawyers, no ridiculous capes and wigs — just the judge face to face with the accused, and the criminal with his executioner." He never mentions his terminal illness either, so his decision to kill himself can be seen as a conscious act of self-execution, since in the end he is a serial killer, and "the greatest judge" like himself would never let such a thing slide.
    • Wargrave is not the killer in the game. He did kill Seton though, so he's not that much more heroic.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Hugo Hamilton falls under this in the stage version, as he, not Vera, got his young nephew killed. This version doesn't go into how the victims were selected, but if it happened anything like the book—in which Wargrave learned about Cyril's murder from a drunken and melancholic Hugo—then he also blamed Vera, who he supposedly loved, for his own crime.
    • The video game introduces a subplot exposing Anthony Marston as a Nazi spy. The character is dead by the time this is discovered, so he is never confronted about this additional offense.
    • Also averted in the video game. Brent is seemingly the killer, but she's actually an imposter and the real Brent is dead.
    • In a sense, the police and the justice system as a whole in the Russian adaptation. In the novel, Wargrave in his confession approvingly mentions that rarely ever did he see a wrongly accused innocent person. In the Russian film, the multitude of convicted innocents and acquitted criminals in the corrupt courts was what made him snap and drove him to killing the murderers who have escaped justice.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole:
    • The 2005 video game adaptation changes the killer's identity but still has them fake their death, which opens up the plot hole of how they managed to fool Armstrong, a trained doctor, into believing they were dead because the killer doesn't have the book's justification of persuading Armstrong beforehand to help them fake their death here. The killer explains this by revealing that she intentionally provoked him into drinking even more heavily than normal, so he would not notice that she was still alive.
    • The Soviet version omits the small subplot of Miss Brent's ball of wool and the red curtains from the drawing turning up missing, which creates a plot hole when Judge Wargrave is discovered wearing a crudely improvised judge's wig and red robe when he and Armstrong stage his "murder".
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • General Macarthur becomes General MacKenzie in the stage play, in order to disassociate him from a real life General MacArthur who was a key figure in the Allied forces at the time of the play's release during WWII.
    • Most of the characters in the 1965 film. Vera Claythorne becomes Ann Clyde, Phillip Lombard is Hugh Lombard, Judge Wargrave becomes Judge Cannon, Emily Brent is Ilona Bergen, Anthony Marston becomes Michael Raven, and Ethel and Thomas Rodgers become Elsa and Joseph Grohmann.
  • Adapted Out: Even adaptations that keep the original ending do not use the epilogue, so Sir Thomas Legge and Inspector Maine have yet to be played by anybody.
    • Of the TV and movie adaptations, Morris only appears in the 2015 mini-series. He is mentioned by Lombard in the Russian film, but is totally absent from all other adaptations.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Vera’s emotional breakdown upon finding the noose in her room in the Russian film adaptation is absolutely devastating.
  • Ascended Extra: The boatman is the protagonist of the video game adaptation. There's a tweak, though: the boatman and sole surviving named character in the novel is Fred Narracott; the protagonist of the video game is his brother, mentioned in one sentence of the novel. (He's unnamed in the novel; the game names him Patrick.)
  • Barefoot Suicide: Invoked in the play.
    Lombard: One shoe—just one shoe—sitting prettily on the cliff edge. Inference—Doctor Armstrong has gone completely off his onion and committed suicide.
    • Also in the 2015 miniseries. Vera is barefoot and all set to kill herself before Wargrave interrupts her. She still hangs anyway.
  • Bee-Bee Gun: The game decides to take the "playing with a hive" verse more literally by actually including an apiary on the island. This apiary comes along with an optional honey-collecting side quest. It's also used to dispatch Miss Brent.
    • Of the deaths in the game, Miss Brent's is the first to be drastically changed from the original, which is a hint that she has faked her death and is really the killer.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: In most of of the film versions, the killer tries to persuade Vera to hang herself, as "the only survivor found on an island with nine corpses will certainly be hanged. Take a piece of friendly advice; do it now, privately." What he doesn't know is that Lombard is still alive.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In some of the adaptations, Lombard has a bag with a different set of initials when he arrives. See Dead Person Impersonation, below.
  • Cute Kitten: A housecat turns up in the 1965 film.
  • Darker and Edgier: The 1987 Russian version qualifies compared to the other film versions. The first victim crashes through a plate and gets the glass stuck in his face, and the UST between Vera and Lombard culminates in him raping her.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: A plot twist exclusive to several of the movie versions reveals "Philip Lombard" is really Charles Morley, who came in Lombard's place. The real Lombard committed suicide upon receiving U.N. Owen's letter.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: In the Russian adaptation, Vera's flashbacks (except for the very last one) and Lombard's nightmare are monochrome. After Vera dies and it is revealed Wargrave is alive, the film switches to black-and-white as well and stays like this until the end.
  • Disney Death: Lombard has one in the 1943 play and the 1989 film.
  • Dramatic Drop: Elsa the cook does this in the 1965 film when her name is called out in the U.N. Owen recording.
  • Dull Surprise: A large share of the game's voice acting falls into this territory, which does take away from the whole "psychological horror" aspect the story is meant to have later on.
  • First-Name Basis: In the play, Vera gradually starts referring to Lombard as "Philip".
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the Charles Morley adaptations, he realizes that they are all dead men and women walking. Morley is also the only one who had the foresight to bring a gun. What does he do? Morley gives the gun to a locked-up Vera so that she can defend herself from the real killer. It pays off in the end when Wargrave tries to turn them against each other and Vera is able to fake his death convincingly.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The Soviet adaptation actually shows the poisoning of Marston's cocktail from a revealing angle, so one can learn the identity of the killer after the very first murder. Very few people (unless they know beforehand what to look at) spot it on the first viewing, since it's all in the edge of the frame.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The 1965 version changed the elderly spinster character to a glamorous young actress, solely to allow another beautiful woman to be cast (a change that would be retained in the 1975 and 1989 versions). It was also the first adaptation of a Christie work to contain a sex scene (which had not been present in the original novel). Christie was not pleased.
  • Large Ham: Every actor who has portrayed the Anthony Marston equivalent in the Hollywood adaptations gets to be one. Mischa Auer in particular is often considered the worst offender.
    • Wargrave is one in several plays where his insanity is enhanced.
  • Lighter and Softer: The play and 1945 movie version fall under this, as do the Harry Alan Towers adaptations.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Occurs in the game:
    • Justified with Patrick, as he did not expect to be stranded on the island.
    • Played straight with the other guests. A particularly jarring example occurs later in the game during a cut scene, and what follows afterwards. The remaining few guests didn't even bother packing pajamas.
  • Lingerie Scene:
  • Lost in Translation: In the poster for the Russian adaptation, the Black Cap of Death is changed to a mortarboard. This is probably due to the cap being peculiar to the British law system and being often called "square".
  • Miscarriage of Justice: In Christie's own theatrical adaptation and many of the following adaptations, the murderer's plan unintentionally involves this, as two of the nine characters he sees as guilty of murder are actually innocent. They both survive and avert the trope.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Some stage versions place Wargrave in a wheelchair, leading to a dramatic reveal of the murderer, possibly as an obscure reference to The Mousetrap.
  • Only The Leads Get a Happy Ending:
    • Played straight in the play and most of the film adaptations.
    • Viciously subverted in the original novel, the Russian film, and the 2015 BBC miniseries.
    • Played for Laughs in the 1945 version.
  • Pet the Dog: In the stage version, Vera shows more sympathy toward Rogers after the death of his wife by defending his seemingly unemotional behavior to a suspicious Blore and chasing after him to offer him coffee. This foreshadows that she is actually innocent.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: In the Russian adaptation it's Vera who's callously lenient towards Lombard's crime (abandoning two dozen native Africans to their deaths), because "Well, they were only negroes", and it's Emily who retorts that: "Black or white, they're our brothers." (As mentioned above, they have this conversation in the novel as well.)
  • The Power of Trust: What saves Charles Morley in the adaptations starring him is that he gives a locked-up Vera (or her equivalent) the sole pistol he has. It convinces Vera that he's not the killer because he gives her a means of self-defense instead of keeping it for himself. Likewise, he knows that she's not the killer because someone dies while she's locked up.
  • Psycho Lesbian: The 1989 film adaptation had Emily Brent replaced by Marion (Brenda Vaccaro), an actress who killed her lesbian lover when she started blackmailing her.
  • Psychological Thriller:
    • The Russian movie version expands on the elements already present in the book—and it works very, very well.
    • Also done in the 2015 BBC adaptation.
  • Right-Hand Cat: In the 1945 and 1965 films, the Judge holds and strokes the house cat while explaining his scheme to Vera.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The game adaptation provides a ceramic table centerpiece, which has ten sailors on it. Anytime someone is killed, one of the sailors is broken off.
  • Setting Update: The 1965 film changed the setting from an island to a snowbound mansion and the 1989 film changed it to an African safari.
  • Scare Chord: A very over-the-top scare chord in the 1965 version when the Judge says "Isn't it obvious that Mr. Owen is one of us?"
  • Ship Tease: The film adaptations — especially the 1965 one — crank up the UST between Lombard and Vera into a full-fledged relationship.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Vera and Lombard (or Morley, depending on the adaptation) get into this.
  • Slasher Movie: "And Then There Were None" is often considered the ur-text of the genre, and its film adaptations among the earliest examples.
  • Sleeping Single: The Rogerses' beds in the game are arranged this way. This was probably more of a practical decision, considering how one bed is needed to host each of their corpses. (In the original story, Rogers moves to a new room once his wife dies. In the game, he remains in the same one, leading to the implication that he had to spend a night sleeping in the same room as his dead wife.)
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • In the 1945 film and several other adaptations, the last stages of the killer's plan are foiled by Philip Lombard unexpectedly committing suicide after receiving his letter and another man taking his place and gaining Vera's trust. What's more, Charles Morely becomes a spanner by giving Vera his gun, thereby proving he is a decent man and saving both of their lives.
    • In the 2005 PC game, the killer didn't count on Blore wrecking Patrick Narracott's boat and stranding him on the island too.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Characters who are subject to Adaptational Heroism in the various adaptations are often spared.
    • Vera is spared in the play and all but one of the English-language films.
    • Lombard is spared in the play and the 1989 film. (The adaptations featuring Charles Morley avert this, as Lombard committed suicide before the story began.)
    • A couple of stage adaptations have the killer be arrested rather than killed (though they'd likely be hanged anyway).
  • Staged Shooting: In all English-language adaptations except for the 2015 BBC miniseries, Vera's shooting of Lombard turns out to be a faked one to draw the killer out of hiding.
  • Suspect Existence Failure: The trope occurs several times. Ultimately subverted and then played straight, as the murderer faked his death precisely to eliminate himself as a suspect. Of course, then it is ultimately played straight as he then commits suicide to complete his perfect crime and, again, eliminate himself as a suspect.
  • Truer to the Text: The Soviet and BBC versions are both much closer to the novel, compared to the other film versions which are adaptations of the stage play (and frequently take liberties even with it).
  • The Voice: An uncredited Christopher Lee provides the tape-recorded voice of "U. N. Owen" in the 1965 film.
  • Zip Me Up: Ann (the Vera character) asks Lombard for help zipping her dress in the 1965 film; kissing ensues.

Alternative Title(s): Ten Little Indians