Seriously, even the title of And Then There Were None is suspenseful. The whole novel is a thrilling page-turner, practically forcing us to stay up too late flipping pages to find out who’s the next to die. It’s kind of like watching a classic horror slasher flick where you know every single one of the teenagers in the cabin is going to die—but not in what order.
The novel achieves this delicious suspense by making sure that we never know more than the characters do. We don’t get to see the killer moving through the night while everyone’s asleep. We don’t look inside the killer’s head. We only know that everyone is dying off one by one, just like the creepy old nursery rhyme predicts.
Christie manages to keeps us in suspense even though she uses an omniscient third-person narrator. Take the moment that the guests realize they’re the only ones on the island:
Five minutes later the three men stood on an upper landing and looked at each other. They were dirty and festooned with cobwebs and their faces were grim.
There was no one on the island but their eight selves. (8.250-251)
Dun dun dun. Here, the emphasis on the exterior of the characters actually makes the moment more frightening. Instead of taking us inside to say, “Dr. Armstrong felt afraid because he realized they were the only ones on the island,” Christie shows us what happens and lets us imagine what it might feel like. (Hint: it feels pretty tootin’ scary.)
Consider us hooked.