Agatha Christie fans will appreciate this fun new take on her novel “And then there were none“! If I should be so bold, I’d have to say that I enjoyed “Countdown to death” MORE than the Christie novel. Sacrilegious I know… Also, I thought the cover was perfect for the book. The notes in the novel (with drawings by Steve Blincoe) were inspired by Edward Gorey’s “The Gashlycrumb Tinies“.
First off there is the wonderful setting of a windswept, remote, and beautiful Scottish island. A wealthy industrialist named Lord Black invites a mishmash of acquaintances to the island. They are a disparate group, one of which is blackmailing him. The others include an aging movie star, a corrupt police inspector, a wealthy media mogul, a doctor, an old school friend of Lord Blacks, the ‘gillie’ and housekeeper he hired to take care of his guests and… the biographer he hired to write his life’s story.
The house is called “Taigh Dubh” or Black House. An apt name if ever there was one.
The author based the house on Kinloch Castle, a real dwelling situated on the island of Rum.
Once ensconced in Taigh Dubh, the guests are read a letter from their host. In it the letter refers to the ten empty bottles that are displayed on the mantle of the great room. Then he goes on to say how each guest is in some way guilty of something – AND, how they will be murdered – one by one… They all realize that they were lured to the island under false pretenses. And there is no way off the island until the following week!
After the first murder they attempt to rally together to either find a way off the island, or, to confront their host, who they have not as yet seen.
As their numbers dwindle, so too do the number of green bottles on the mantle. Their suspicion of one another increases – yet each doesn’t want to be left alone.
One of my favorite sentences from the novel: “The cracks of taste were pasted over with money and bore the weight of purloined antiquity”.
All in all “Countdown to death” was a fun, though improbable retelling of the Christie classic. I enjoyed the read. Thanks Mr. McChesney!
Iain is a writer of classic mysteries. He was born and raised in Scotland.
His second novel, Countdown to Death, is a modern retelling of an Agatha Christie classic–with a shocking twist.
He lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife and two children.