Into that silence came The Voice. Without warning, inhuman, penetrating . . . “Ladies and gentlemen! Silence, please . . . You are charged with the following indictments.”
The guests enjoy a delicious dinner and begin to relax in spite of the odd circumstances. They notice a set of ten china figures of Indians sitting in the center of the table and immediately associate the figures with the rhyme that hangs framed in all of their rooms. When dinner is over, the whole company moves into the drawing room. Everyone except Mrs. Rogers is in the drawing room when suddenly the group hears a disembodied, mechanical-sounding voice, seemingly coming from nowhere. It accuses each of them of murder, naming the victim and the date of each guest’s purported crime. After listing the crimes, it asks if anyone at the bar has something to say in his or her defense.
The voice falls silent, and almost everyone expresses shock and anger. Mrs. Rogers, who has been standing outside the room, faints. While Mr. Rogers goes to fetch her some brandy, everyone else searches for the source of the voice. Eventually, Lombard finds an old-fashioned record player in an adjoining room. Rogers returns and admits to turning it on in accordance with orders from his employer, but he denies knowing what it was going to play. The record is entitled “Swan Song.”
Mrs. Rogers revives, and her husband and Dr. Armstrong help her to bed. People pour themselves drinks. When Mr. Rogers returns, he explains that he and his wife have never met their employer, Mr. Owen. He says that an agency hired them, and they received instructions by mail. Everyone else takes turns explaining his or her invitation to the island, and they realize that “Mr. Owen” impersonated various old friends and specific acquaintances in the letters. Judge Wargrave, who has taken charge of the discussion, notes that the recorded message mentioned a Mr. Blore, but not a “Mr. Davis,” the name Blore has chosen as an alias. Blore then reveals his real name and admits that he was hired via post as a private detective to protect the jewels of Mrs. U. N. Owen. Wargrave suggests that U. N. Owen sounds like and stands for “unknown,” and that a homicidal maniac has invited them all here.
The subject turns to the accusations made by the voice on the record, and the guests defend themselves. Wargrave, accused of killing a man named Edward Seton, says that Seton was an accused murderer on whom he passed sentence. Armstrong, remembering the case, privately recalls that everyone felt sure Seton would be acquitted, but Wargrave influenced the jury, which found Seton guilty. Vera, accused of killing Cyril Hamilton, tells the group that she was his governess, and he drowned while swimming to a rock. She says she tried her best to save him. Macarthur, accused of killing his wife’s lover, Arthur Richmond, says that Richmond was one of his officers who died on a routine reconnaissance mission; Macarthur denies that his wife ever had an affair. Lombard, accused of killing twenty-one members of an East African tribe, admits to taking their food and abandoning them in the wilderness, saying that he did so in order to save himself. Tony Marston, accused of killing John and Lucy Combes, remarks that they must have been two children he ran over by accident.
Mr. Rogers says that he and his wife did not kill Jennifer Brady, their employer, an old, sickly woman who died one night when Mr. Rogers could not reach the doctor in time. He admits that they inherited some money after her death. Blore says that when he was a police inspector, he testified against a man named James Landor in a bank robbery case. Landor later died in jail, but Blore insists that Landor was guilty. Armstrong, accused of causing the death of a woman named Louisa Mary Clees, denies knowing the name but privately remembers the case. Clees was an elderly woman on whom he operated while drunk. Only the dignified Emily Brent will not speak to the accusation made against her.
Wargrave suggests they leave in the morning as soon as the boat arrives; all the guests but one concur. Tony Marston suggests they ought to stay and solve the case. He then takes a drink, chokes on it, and dies.