Ten Little Soldiers
Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine. Nine little Soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were Eight. Eight little Soldier boys traveling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven. Seven little Soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six. Six little Soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were Five. Five little Soldier boys going in for law;
One got into Chancery and then there were Four. Four little Soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three. Three little Soldier boys walking in the Zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were Two. Two little Soldier boys were out in the sun;
One got all frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Soldier boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
This little children’s poem becomes the plot in an ingenious murder plot. Ten people are invited to Soldier Island. Each receives different reasons for being invited to the Island. The letters are signed U. N. Owen. The cast of character is as follows:
Anthony James Marston, an amoral playboy.
Mrs. Ethel Rodgers, the nervous yet efficient housekeeper.
Mr. Thomas Rodgers, an efficient hard working butler.
General John Macarthur, a retired WWI hero.
Emily Brent, a spinster who is a religious zealot.
Justice Lawrence Wargrave, a retired stringent criminal judge.
Dr. Edward Armstong, a fashionable doctor.
William Blore, a retired investigator.
Philip Lombard, a fortune hunter.
Vera Claythorne, a former governess.
After the characters arrive at the Island, they start comparing notes as to their hosts. None of the stories match up. The story becomes stranger still when during dinner a gramophone plays the list of “murders” for which each guest is responsible. It seems everyone has a very dirty little secret in their past. It also appears that all ten have gotten away with murder. The “guests” notice that in the center of the table there are ten little soldier figurines. The more clever “guests” realize that U.N. Owen is a clever way of saying UNKNOWN.
That night before dinner is completely over, the first “guest” dies having “choked to death.” One by one each of the guest dies in accordance with the poem. Paranoia mounts as the survivors realize that the murderer is among them. Foes become friends who become foes. Within a few days, all the “guests” are dead. The police are at a loss. The coroner is unable to determine a time of death for any of the ten. They know roughly that certain people had to have survived certain people. But they have no idea Why any of this has happened. But then the crime is solved when the megalomaniac murdered sends a letter to the police. It seems he cannot bear to have people not realize or appreciate what he pulled off. It is jaw dropping!!!
This book reminded me greatly of A Pocket Full of Rye because the murders followed the nursery rhyme pattern. In hindsight the murdered was easy to spot. I’m not sure why I didn’t see it before. It was quite a psychological thriller, because the characters really start going crazy due to guilt and fear. Well, be sure your sins will find you out!!!