Deception is viewed as a negative term in society. However, in the genre of mystery novels, it is the essential key to its success. For the reader to want to continue on, he/she must be supplied with numerous possibilities for an ending. The only way one could provide such an abundant selection is with the use of deception. Agatha Christie has deceived her readers on purpose to present more plentiful probabilities for a conclusion. “No job is trickier or more critical than inventing ostensibly fair misdirectionthat is, preserving some connection with plausibility while making many characters suspect. She (Agatha Christie) has perfected it.” (Wagoner, 2) Her skill has made her the most popular mystery author and now has over two billion books in print. She has also achieved Britain’s highest honor when she was made a Dame of the British Empire.
And then there were None (Ten Little Indians) is the most popular novel written by Agatha Christie and is considered, by many, the greatest mystery novel ever written. In this acclaimed masterpiece of murder and suspense, Mr. Owen gathers ten strangers who share forgettable pasts together on an isolated Indian Island. However, the guests do not know the identity of their host. As they start telling their deepest, darkest secrets to each other, one by one, they start to die.
In this novel, deception is a significant part of the story. Agatha Christie misleads the reader by giving an impression that a mysterious, unknown figure has committed the heinous murders. Dr. Armstrong is one of the guests on the island and is suspicious about the homicides. He does not feel any of his fellow guests are to blame so he says, “You’re probably right! Damn it all, there must be someone hiding on the island! Ah! Here comes Lombard!” (Christie, none 68) By supplying a possible scenario, Christie has made the reader consider the possibility that it maybe true.
Further on in the novel, Christie hints about the identity of the alleged killer. Mr. Justice Wargrave is beginning to think that he can’t trust anyone on the island. He is starting to blame others including the very people who also have been attempting to solve the murders. In an abnormal, feverish tone he says,
Its Armstrong. I saw him looking at me sideways just then. His eyes are mad. Quite mad. Perhaps he isn’t a doctor at all. That’s it, of course He’s a lunatic, escaped from some doctors house-pretending to be a doctor It’s true Shall I tell them? Shall I scream out? No, it won’t do to put him on his guard Besides he can seem so sane. What time is it? Only a quarter past three…! Oh god, I shall go mad myself Yes its Armstrong. He’s watching me now (Christie, none 145)
Armstrong did not commit the murders. However, Christie has made it seem feasible by giving extensive details about his past and his behavior. She has given many possibilities and anyone could have done it. “Could the orbiting gas that reports these facts itself be the dark culprit, as in the Agatha Christie novel where the narrator turns out to be the murderer.” (Lightman, 60-64) She has left it up to the reader to decide.
N or M is the title of one of sixty-eight novels she has written in her lifetime. This mystery is about the final words of a dying man. He mentions the code names of Hitler’s most dangerous agents. This elusive clue sends the elegant detective team of Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, to a fashionable seaside resort on a mission of wartime intelligence. To set an elaborate trap, they must uncover the mystery not as husband and wife, but as strangers, meeting by chance.
Agatha Christie continues to mislead her readers into believing false facts. In the middle of this novel, Tuppence is trying to get information from Mrs. O’Rourke. She does not give her any clear clues and blurs the information that she does give. When Tuppence is looking for an agent code named S, she asks Mrs. O’Rourke. She replies, “You mayn’t know it, but Miss Minton’s Christian name is Sophia.”(Christie, M 109-10) This hint causes Tuppence to look for Miss Minton while the real agent S is still on the loose.
As Tommy and Tuppence continue to search for agent N and M, they meet up and discuss their possible suspects. Tuppence says, “Yes. Did you notice how Mrs. Perenna came in just as the critical moment and clinched things-not to ring up the police? She took command of the whole situation.”(Christie, M, 137) Tuppence is very confident that her suspect for M is correct and that M is the evil agent. Tommy, on the other hand, believes that N, not M is to blame. These conflicting views have presented a “fork in the road” for the reader. They do not know whom to believe. By doing so, Christie has made it possible for the conclusion to be a guess, at best. “For them, the Kennedy assassination seems to offer an Agatha Christie-like range of possible scenarios and culprits.” (Beschloss, 1C)
While viewed as an evil term in society, deception is the vital component in an exciting, frightening and clever mystery novel. Dame Agatha Christie has succeeded in writing novels that makes a person ponder about the outcome. She has molded deception into an art form in which she is the Michaelangelo or the Picaso.