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by Agatha Christie
St Martin's Griffin, May 2004
272 pages
ISBN: 0312330871

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Rumors in the British headlines are speculating on the recent sale of Soldier Island, a remote rendezvous for an American millionaire and his wife. Soon the owner is revealed as a man named Owen, who sends invitations to ten perfect strangers, inviting them to the luxurious Devon resort.

Each person greedily accepts this free holiday vacation, and each has a dark secret in their past, known only by their unseen host. They are ferried across the water and told that they are alone on the island for one week, with food to last and servants to minister to them.

On their initial meeting, the two servants are instructed to play a record on the gramophone, which announces not only a welcome, but also strips each guest of their hidden secret in full view of the others, breeding shock, then humiliation and suspicion as each guest is accused of behavior which resulted in an innocent person dying. Ten people with a wicked past, and the only evidence of their host is a recorded voice piercing the air.

As they try to act nonchalant, the first death occurs. A young man chokes on his drink and falls dead right before their eyes. To prove this is no coincidence, a second death follows and soon every person realizes that the only innocent person is the next one to die!

This novel is as intriguing today as it was 60 years ago, not only for the plot, but also for the manner in which the characters are introduced at the beginning of the story. We meet each person just after they receive the mysterious invitation and we 'read' their thoughts, along with a hint at the secrets they are trying to rationalize away.

Despite there being ten distinct persons to keep track of, they are skilfully blended in a way that avoids confusion, and keeps the reader flipping the pages to discover who is next, and wondering how the murderer can go undetected on a small, flat island. Christie's masterpiece is worth a rereading by her fans and is a treat for anyone new to her work. Recommended!

Reviewed by Tess Allegra, October 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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