Summary: Chapter 11

Oh, don’t you understand? Haven’t you read that idiotic rhyme?. . . Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks.

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Lombard sleeps late. Waking, he wonders why Rogers did not come to rouse him earlier. He finds the others, except for Emily. Blore and Wargrave have to be roused from sleep. Downstairs, they find no sign of Rogers. Emily comes in wearing a raincoat, saying that she has been walking around the island. Entering the dining room, Vera discovers, to everyone’s horror, that another statue is missing. They soon find Rogers’s body in the woodshed, with a hatchet wound in the back of his neck. Vera suffers a slight breakdown, raving about how the rhyme has been fulfilled—“One chopped himself in halves, and then there were six.” The next verse pertains to bees, and she asks hysterically if there are any hives on the island. Armstrong slaps her, and she comes to her senses.

The group breaks up while Emily and Vera prepare breakfast. Blore tells Lombard that he thinks Emily is the killer. After some prodding, Blore admits to Lombard that he testified against an innocent man. As she cooks breakfast, Vera stares off into space, letting the bacon burn while she remembers Cyril disappearing into the water. Emily remains outwardly calm, but when Vera asks her if she is afraid to die, Emily begins to get nervous. She thinks to herself that she will not die because she has led an upright life. At breakfast, the remaining guests behave very politely, but frantic thoughts flood their minds.

Summary: Chapter 12

After breakfast, Wargrave suggests they convene in half an hour to discuss the situation. Emily feels woozy, so she remains at the table. Armstrong offers to give her a sedative, but she recoils at the idea. As the others go out and clean up in the kitchen, Emily sees a bee buzzing outside of the window and realizes that there is someone behind her. She seems drugged or delusional; she thinks sluggishly and calmly of bees and of how much she likes honey. She thinks the person in the room is Beatrice Taylor, dripping with water from the river. She then feels a prick on her neck.

In the drawing room, Blore says he thinks Emily is the killer. Vera tells them the story of Beatrice Taylor. Some seem to agree with Blore’s theory, but Wargrave points out that they have no evidence. They go to the dining room to get Emily and find her dead, her skin turning blue. They notice the bee buzzing outside and remember the rhyme: “A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.” Emily apparently died of an injection from a hypodermic syringe. Armstrong admits that he has a syringe in his medical bag. The remaining guests go together to search his room, and they find the syringe has vanished.

Wargrave suggests they lock away any potential weapons, including Lombard’s gun and Armstrong’s medicine case. Lombard reluctantly agrees, but when they go to his bedroom they find that his revolver is missing. At Wargrave’s prompting, everyone strips (Vera puts on a bathing suit) and is searched for weapons. They store all potentially lethal drugs in a case that requires a key. The case is placed in a chest that requires a different key. Wargrave gives one key to Lombard and one to Blore. This way the two strong men would have to fight one another if one wanted the other’s key, and neither could break into the case or chest without making a great racket. The group searches for Lombard’s gun but cannot find it. They do find the doctor’s syringe, however; it was thrown out the dining-room window, along with the sixth Indian figure.

Analysis: Chapters 11 & 12

Christie continues her tactic of casting suspicion on a variety of characters. In the moments following Rogers’s death, it is Emily who seems the most likely suspect. She possesses the kind of religious mania that might drive someone to kill in the name of justice, and the fact that she is out walking when Rogers is killed gives her an opportunity to commit the murder. Blore, displaying his usual habit of jumping to conclusions, becomes the champion of her guilt. But, of course, no sooner does Christie make us suspect Emily than she briskly removes Emily from suspicion by having her killed off.

Read more about the administration of justice as a theme.

The killer’s success with Rogers and Emily depends on their own mistakes as much as upon the killer’s cleverness. Rogers, as we see earlier, stubbornly refuses to alter his routine, even in these bizarre circumstances. He continues to perform his butler chores, washing up after people, remaining downstairs to clean up after the others have gone to bed, and rising early in the morning and going out alone to chop firewood. By carrying on as if the situation is normal, he separates himself from the group. This isolation casts suspicion on him, but it also enables the murderer to make short work of him. In the same way, Emily refuses to take the kind of precautions that the others are taking: she gets up early and goes walking alone, and then after breakfast she sits alone in the dining room, presenting an inviting target for the killer. The deaths of Rogers and Emily drive home the point that separation from the larger group is fatal.

Although we learn almost nothing about the characters who die early in the novel, we know much about the characters that remain. Clear dynamics have emerged by this point: Blore and Lombard are rivals, with Lombard clearly the more resourceful of the two. Wargrave, meanwhile, has managed to establish himself in a leadership role, with the others following his advice, as when they strip and search each other and when they lock away the medicines. Vera, who behaves as if she trusts Lombard more than the others, is the only woman still surviving, which suggests that she possesses unsuspected resources. Her weakness, though, is demonstrated again in her hysterical reaction to Rogers’s death, when she is easily affected and emotionally undone by suggestive, seemingly supernatural devices such as the “Ten Little Indians” poem. Armstrong, finally, is the most nervous and high-strung of the group, and he is a focus of suspicion, both from Vera and from Blore.

Read an in-depth analysis of Philip Lombard.

In these chapters, Christie makes use of a new authorial tactic, recording characters’ thoughts without identifying the thinker. As the guests sit around at breakfast, we hear a succession of nervous thoughts, including a few suspicious ones (“Would it work? I wonder. It’s worth trying,” and “The damned fool, he believed every word I said to him. It was easy”). All we know is that one or more characters are plotting to mislead others, confusing our understanding of the events on the island.