"Ten Little Indians"
Wargrave decides, some point after losing his sanity, that he would create a murder mystery that would be impossible to solve (as mentioned in the book's epilogue). To do this, he finds the names of nine people whom he accuses of committing murder. He decides to parallel each death he causes to a death in the nursery rhyme "Ten Little Indians":
Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon;
One said he'd stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law;
One got into Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two Little Indian boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
Wargrave chose nine people to be the Indian boys, while he was the tenth. He then invited each person to Indian Island, under the name of U.N. Owen. (a pun of the word "Unknown"). Sure enough, each person arrives on the boat to the island, including Wargrave. Each guest has the nursery rhyme hanging on the wall in their room. At a large dinner, they notice ten china Indian figures on the table. Later, during dinner, a gramophone record plays, accusing each guest there (including Wargrave) of murder.
The Ten Indians
Anthony James Marston, a man with a well-proportioned body, crisp hair, tanned face and blue eyes. He was born to a wealthy family, he ran over and killed two youths, feeling no remorse for the incident as he lacks any kind of moral responsibility.
Mrs. Ethel Rogers, the cook and Mr. Rogers' wife. She is described as a pale-faced, ghostlike woman with shifty light eyes, who is scared easily. Despite her respectability and efficiency, she helped her domineering husband, Thomas, kill an elderly employer by withholding her medicine, so they could inherit her money.
General John Gordon Macarthur, a retired World War I hero, who sent his wife's lover, Arthur Richmond, to his death. Macarthur sent Richmond on a "mission" resulting in a dead Richmond.
Mr. Thomas Rogers, the butler and Mrs. Rogers' husband. One of the first people to come to the island, he is a very hard worker even in his old age. He killed an elderly employer with the help of his wife by withholding restorative drugs from her, in order to inherit her money.
Emily Caroline Brent, an elderly woman of unyielding principles who uses the Christian Bible to justify her inability to show compassion or understanding for others. She dismissed her pregnant maid, Beatrice Taylor, who later threw herself into a river and drowned. Despite this she feels no guilt.
Justice Lawrence Wargrave, a retired judge, well known for handing out the death penalty. He is accused of murder due to the judicial hanging of criminal Edward Seton, even though there were some doubts about his guilt at the time of the trial.
Dr. Edward George Armstrong, a Harley Street surgeon, blamed for the death of patient while operating under the influence of alcohol.
William Henry Blore, a retired police inspector and now private investigator, is accused of having had an innocent man, James Landor, sentenced to lifetime imprisonment as a scapegoat after being bribed. The man later died in the prison.
Philip Lombard, a soldier of fortune. Literally down to his last square meal, he comes to the island with a loaded revolver. Though he is reputed to be a good man in a tight spot, Lombard is accused of causing the deaths of a native African tribe. It is said that he stole food from the tribe, thus causing starvation and death.
Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a young teacher, secretary, and ex-governess, who takes mostly secretarial jobs since her last job as a governess ended in the death of her charge. She let Cyril Hamilton swim out to sea and drown so that his uncle, Hugo Hamilton, could inherit his money and marry her; however, the plan backfired, as Hamilton abandoned her when he realized what she had done.
Isaac Morris, a shady man, accused of peddling drugs to a young woman which drove her to suicide. He goes to the island because he is hired by the murderer to make arrangements for the island. Apparently, he overdoses on sleeping pills thus killing himself, but the police suspect it was a murder.
Just after the gramophone record plays, each guest there acknowledges their awareness and/or involvement in the deaths of the persons mentioned, while denying that it was their fault. Justice Wargrave seems to take automatic control, leading the group with his thoughts. He plans the order of the deaths specifically by order of the guest's degree of guilt. Those who had the least guilt in their crimes died earlier, while the more cold-blooded killers were saved for last, in order to put them through greater mental agony.
First to die is Anthony Marston, whose drink is poisoned with cyanide (one choked his little self). That night, Thomas Rogers notices that one soldier figurine is missing from the dining table. The next morning, Mrs. Rogers never wakes up, and is assumed to have received a fatal overdose of sleeping draught (one overslept himself). At lunchtime, MacArthur, who had predicted that he would never leave the island alive, is found dead from a blow to the back of his head when Dr. Armstrong calls him to lunch (one said he'd stay there). In growing panic, the survivors search the island for the murderer or possible hiding places, but find no one. Justice Wargrave establishes himself as a decisive leader of the group; he asserts that one of them must be the murderer and is playing a sadistic game with them.
The next morning, Rogers is missing, and they notice one of the little soldier figurines is missing as well. Rogers is soon found dead in the woodshed, having been struck in the head with a large axe (one chopped himself in halves). Later that day, while the others are in the drawing room, Emily Brent stays in the dining room and she dies from an injection of potassium cyanide—the injection mark on her neck is an allusion to a bee sting (a bumblebee stung one). The hypodermic needle is found outside, thrown from the window along with a smashed china soldier figurine. The five survivors—Dr. Armstrong, Justice Wargrave, Philip Lombard, Vera Claythorne, and Ex-Inspector Blore—become increasingly frightened. Wargrave announces that anything on the island that could be used as a weapon should be locked up, including Wargrave's sleeping pills and Armstrong's medical equipment; Lombard admits to bringing a revolver to the island, but it has gone missing. They decide to sit in the drawing room, with only one leaving at any one time—theoretically, they should all be safe that way. Vera goes up to her room and discovers a strand of seaweed planted there; her screams attract the attention of Blore, Lombard, and Armstrong, who rush to her aid. When they return to the drawing room, they find Wargrave, dressed up in a judge's wig and gown, slumped against a chair with a gunshot wound in his forehead (one got into Chancery); Armstrong confirms his death. This was determined to be a ruse planned by Wargrave, which was revealed in the book's epilogue. Wargrave fakes his death as to not arouse suspicion.
That night, Blore hears someone sneaking out of the house. He and Lombard search the remaining rooms and discover Armstrong missing from his room—so they think he must be the killer. Vera, Blore, and Lombard, whose revolver has since been returned to him, decide it best to go outside when morning arrives; when Blore's hunger makes him go back into the house, he does not return; as Vera and Phillip search for him, they discover his body on the front lawn, his head crushed by Vera's marble, bear-shaped clock (a big bear hugged one). They assume that Armstrong has committed the murder and leave to walk along the shore. They find Armstrong's drowned body along the cliffs (a red herring swallowed one) and realize that they are the only two left; though neither could possibly have killed the Inspector, their mutual suspicion has driven them to the breaking point and each of them assumes the other to be the murderer. As they lift Armstrong's body out of reach of the water, Vera swipes Lombard's revolver, kills him on the beach (out in the sun), and returns to her room (momentarily thinking the last rhyme of the poem was 'Got married and then there was none' because of her need for Hugo. Ironically, that is a version of the last line of the poem), discovering a noose hanging from the ceiling and a chair underneath it. Having finally been driven mad (or "hypnotically suggestible") by the experience, Vera hangs herself, kicking the chair out from under her, fulfilling the final verse of the rhyme (hanged himself and then there were none).
Confession and Epilogue
The epilogue consists of a conversation between Inspector Maine, in charge of the unsolved case, and the Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard. The man who made all the arrangements for U.N. Owen's purchase of the island was Isaac Morris, a shady dealer known to efficiently cover his tracks when doing business. However, he cannot tell the police anything; he died of a drug overdose the day the party set sail. During the period when the killings took place and immediately after, no one could have got on or off the island due to poor weather, ruling out the possibility that "Mr. Owen" was some unidentified person who committed the murders while evading detection from the guests.
The police have concluded from the forensic evidence and various characters' diaries that Blore, Armstrong, Lombard, and Vera were definitely the last to die. Blore could not have died last, as the clock was dropped onto him from above, and he could not have set up a way for it to fall on him. Armstrong could not have been last since his body was dragged above the high-tide mark by someone else, nor could Lombard, since he was shot on the beach but the revolver was found upstairs in the hallway, outside the door of Wargrave's room. This leaves Vera, whose fingerprints are on the pistol, and from whose window the clock was dropped on Blore; however, the chair which she kicked away with the noose around her neck was found pushed against the wall, out of reach from where she would have had to stand on it.
In the end, although one of the guests must have been the killer, none of them could have been, leaving the two inspectors baffled. Oddly no notice is taken of the rhyming clue which is in each guest's bedroom
Days later, a fishing trawler, the Emma Jane, finds a letter in a bottle floating just off the Devon coast, and sends it to Scotland Yard, who recognize it as a confession by the late Justice Wargrave. In this narrative, Wargrave reveals that he has suffered from a certain sadistic temperament ever since childhood, when he performed torturous experiments on garden pests, a symptom of sociopathy. However, this quality was juxtaposed uneasily with an innate sense of justice; he considered it abhorrent that any innocent person should die by his hand. Thus he became a judge, ordering the death penalty in all cases where he firmly believed the accused person guilty, so that he could enjoy seeing them crippled with fear by the knowledge of their impending death. Unsatisfied, Wargrave always felt a deep desire to commit a murder by his own hand. After discovering that he was terminally ill, he decided to do just that by renting an island off the Devon coast and luring nine people there, all of whom have caused death and escaped justice. He then killed them one by one, reveling in the mental torture each survivor experienced as their own fate approached. In the letter, Wargrave also claims that his extensive experience as a judge rendered him capable of confirming their guilt by observing their reactions to the murders, and that he did indeed intuit the guilt of all of the victims.
Having disposed of the first five guests in the manner above, Wargrave persuaded Armstrong to help him fake Wargrave's own murder, under the pretext that it would rattle the "real murderer." Later, upon meeting Armstrong on the cliff in the middle of night, Wargrave pushed the doctor into the sea, enabling him to orchestrate the rest of the killings without suspicion. The final victim, Vera, hanged herself while Wargrave secretly watched from the bedroom closet. Afterwards, Wargrave pushed the chair against the wall. He then wrote out his confession, putting the letter in a bottle and casting the bottle into the sea.
Wargrave finishes his confession by stating that he plans to shoot himself, but he craves posthumous recognition of his brilliant scheme. He argues that even if his letter is not found, three clues exist that should point to him as the killer:
1.Wargrave was the only guest who did not wrongfully cause the death of anyone before coming to the island. Edward Seton (the man Wargrave was 'accused' of killing by giving the jury a biased summation in his case) was guilty of the crime he was accused of after all; therefore paradoxically Wargrave is Mr Unknown killer.
2.The "red herring" line in the poem suggests that Armstrong was tricked into his death, and the respectable Justice Wargrave is the only one of the remaining house guests in whom Armstrong would have been likely to confide.
3.After he shoots himself, the bullet will leave a red mark in his forehead similar to the mark of Cain, the first murderer described in the Biblical Old Testament.
Wargrave then describes how he plans to shoot himself: he will loop an elastic cord through the gun and tie one end of the cord to his eyeglasses. The other end he will loop around the doorknob of an open door. Wargrave will then sit on the bed so that, after shooting himself, his body will seem as if he had been lying there. After shooting himself with a handkerchief wrapped round the gun to avoid fingerprints, the recoil will snap the gun towards the doorknob. The gun will strike the doorknob, detaching the elastic, which will snap back (closing the door in the process) and lie dangling innocuously from his eyeglasses. The gun will be found in the corridor outside the closed door, and a dead body on the bed.
Thus the police will find ten dead bodies and an unsolvable mystery on Indian Island.
In the film version, titled 'And Then There Were None,' Wargrave is changed considerably. He is renamed Francis J. Quincannon, an Irish judge, and played by Irish actor Barry Fitzgerald. Instead of tricking Vera Claythorne into hanging herself, he reveals that he is alive to her at the end, and urges her to do it rather than be accused of the other murders, as he is about to take cyanide and kill himself. Unknown to him, Claythorne and Lombard have guessed his involvement, and Lombard has faked his death. Lombard walks in to join Claythorne as he finishes his confession. The Judge dies a moment later muttering 'Never trust a woman.'