Okay, I am probably not that good at working out who the killer is in a mystery novel (not that I have read all that many, and this is the first ever Agatha Christie novel that I have read) but I was convinced that the bulter was the culprit right up until he landed up with an axe in his head. Mind you, I probably should have clicked on to the fact that the culprit would have had to have been a lot more intelligent and have access to a lot more information that the butler could ever have (and I was probably spending more time trying to work out how the butler knew all of these dark secrets). One of the reasons that I suspected the butler is because 'the butler did it' is such a well worn cliché, and this is one of Christie's most famous books, that I suspected that this is where the cliché began (because they all have to begin somewhere, don't they?). However, it turns out that the cliché began with a book called The Door by Mary Roberts Reinhart.
Anyway, enough of that and onto to book itself, not that I can really say all that much about this book because if I were to I would have to hide the entire review because of spoilers (and that is something that I don't like doing) and I really don't want to give anything away because this is one of those books that would completely spoil it for people who have not read it (namely because the book is actually more of a suspense/thriller as opposed to a murder mystery, and the suspense simply would not work if you knew what was going on). Anyway, the story is set on an island (I read the non-politically correct version because that was the version my parent's owned, but I believe the PC version calls the island 'Solider Island') where ten people all come together because they all received an invitation, and on the first night a record played on a gramophone reveals that each of these people had committed a murder some time in their life and the reason that they are here is because justice is finally going to be done, at which point one of them falls dead after drinking a glass of brandy. So, what we have is a story in which the people on the island drop dead one by one, all killed in a way (and in the same order) as a nursery rhyme that sits on a mantle piece, all the while trying to work out who the murderer is. Mind you, all is revealed in the end, which I found a bit disappointing, because it probably would have worked much better if the book finished off as a complete mystery.
Anyway, the story is about justice and about justice being metered out by somebody against a group of people who are responsible for another person's death. I don't like using the word murder though because murder is very specific – it is the intentional depriving of somebody's life and requires a number of elements (such as malice aforethought, which is the intention to kill that person). The problem is that not all deaths occur in that way, and in this book I'm not sure if any of the deaths that these people were responsible for could have been a murder. Okay, the intentional depriving somebody of life sustaining medication could be considered murder (though it would be hard to prove), as well as a judge directing a jury to find a defendant guilty of murder even though the case against the defendant suggests otherwise (and while not murder in the strictest of sense, it is clear that the judge, in this particular case, was no timpartial and one could consider him to be guilty of abuse of process). A doctor who stuffs up an operation due to being drunk is not a murderer, but probably shouldn't be a doctor due to gross medical negligence. A hoon driver that runs over and kills somebody is not a murderer, but probably should not be allowed to drive, however it could be argued that a general sending somebody on a suicide mission because he has a grudge against this person could be.
Anyway, the common theme with these characters is that each and every one of them were responsible for somebody's death however the law was incapable of stopping them, so the self-styled executioner decides to do something about it and declares them all guilty of murder, and proceeds to implement the penalty. Okay, while that part of us that desires to see justice done may jump up and applaud such a person, the question always arises as to whether we have the right to do so. Okay, our legal system may not be perfect (far from it) however it is designed in a way to make sure that we are only ever sending guilty people to gaol (or to the gallows, as is the case with this book). Some suggested that it is better for 10 guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to go to gaol (or the gallows in this case because once somebody's life is taken there is no reversing it, at all). However, we do have a system of law to determine who is guilty of a crime and who is not, and even if somebody were to get away with murder, they still have to live with the fact that they have blood on their hands.