Thursday, November 06, 2014

Remembering the First Time

"And Then There Were None," the Agatha Christie mystery that was published 75 years ago today, was the first Agatha Christie book my parents permitted me to read.

I always thought that was sort of amusing. I mean, I had already read a lot of books that really were been beyond my years, as my grandmother would say. But my parents — and my grandmother, too, for that matter — were enablers, giving me books that someone my age probably had no business reading. My parents were educators. They believed in reading, and they encouraged me to read anything and everything.

Except Agatha Christie. They kind of held back on that one, maybe because they still read her books when I was young. Maybe they wanted to keep that just for themselves. I have read most of Agatha Christie's books, and they would have been far easier for me to comprehend than many of the books I read.

I suppose if my first experience with Agatha Christie had not been such a positive one, I might never have read another one of her books.

But I selected "And Then There Were None." It didn't feature any of Christie's well–known detectives. I didn't know at the time that it is regarded by many as her masterpiece. Accordingly, it is Christie's best–selling book. It is also the best–selling mystery ever — and one of the best–selling books of all time.

No, I didn't know any of that when I first sat down to read it. I was only about 12, maybe 13, and I don't remember what attracted me to it. Maybe I liked the title — which was the American version of a well–known nursery rhyme. Maybe I liked the artwork on the cover of the paperback copy I read. As I say, I don't remember now what drew me to it, but I do remember it was my first Christie book.

It really was an absorbing book. Ten people were invited to spend the weekend on a remote island. Each was lured there by a different ruse. As I recall, one was drawn by the possibility of a job, another by the offer of an all–expenses paid vacation, etc.

In fact, each was being drawn into an ambush. Each had been judged guilty (unofficially) of causing the death of another but not in a way that could lead to criminal charges. The person who had invited them to the island planned to execute all, one by one, as their punishment for their crimes.

And, one by one, each one was killed. Or so it seemed.

Actually, the person who was responsible was one of the "guests." He enlisted the help of another guest in faking his own death; he said that, believed to be dead, he would be free to search the island for whoever was doing it. Consequently, he earned the trust of that other guest, who wound up being bumped off shortly thereafter, as I recall. Moral: Be careful who you trust.

Once all the others were dead, the culprit committed suicide — but not before leaving a note explaining to the authorities what had happened.

I thought it was a clever book, and I began taking on other Christie books. I have enjoyed most of them, but I have never experienced the same thrill I got with that first book.