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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

And Then There Was No One

Gilbert Adair

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To purchase And Then There Was No One

Title: And Then There Was No One
Author: Gilbert Adair
Genre: Novel
Written: (2009)
Length: 258 pages
Availability: And Then There Was No One - US
And Then There Was No One - UK
And Then There Was No One - Canada
Und dann gab's keinen mehr - Deutschland
  • The Last of Evadne Mount
  • The final volume in the Evadne Mount Trilogy
  • The German translation was apparently published in the fall of 2008, several months before the UK original edition

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Our Assessment:

B+ : enjoyable, with a particularly good conclusion

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 22/11/2008 Tobias Döring
The Guardian A 4/6/2010 Nicholas Lezard
Independent on Sunday . 30/5/2010 Christian House
NZZ . 17/6/2009 Thomas Hermann
New Statesman . 15/1/2009 Robert Hanks
The Spectator A 29/12/2008 Caroline Moore
Sunday Times . 5/4/2009 Hugo Barnacle
The Telegraph . 7/1/2009 Jake Kerridge

  From the Reviews:
  • "(E)in wahres Spiegelkabinett aus historischen Anspielungen, literarischen Indizien und kriminalistischer Fährtensuche. (...) Immer wieder überholen die Fiktionen bei Adair die Wirklichkeit, und immer wieder fragt man sich als Leser Zug um Zug, ob sein durchtriebenes Spiel gelingen kann." - Tobias Döring, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "(T)he narrator, and indeed central character, is Adair himself, who has some extraordinarily good fun at his own expense in his self-portrait. (...) The final volume of the trilogy, then, could be said to be clever-clever-clever: by which I mean its clever-cleverness is redeemed. There is an almost poignant audacity in this work. (...) It is an illusion, of course: after one puts the book down, we can see it for the inert artefact it is, but while reading it we feel a delicious sensation of vertigo. This book seems to buzz with its own self-generated life. It's transcendentally good." - Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

  • "Just how much you enjoy this book depends on your capacity for ingesting the riffs of an inveterate clever-clog as he nods and winks his way through a catalogue of movie and literary references. Adair is a writer who has always worn his intellectualism heavily. Yet the Mount escapades make for guilty pleasure, told with the gusto of a great uncle who realises he's pushed a yarn to the point of incredulity, then tips back the brandy and continues." - Christian House, Independent on Sunday

  • "Anders als der für Adair untypisch monotone Vorgänger ist der neue Roman bis zum Verstummen des Erzählers von einer munteren Stimmenvielfalt beseelt, die dank fabulierenden Ausschweifungen die Handlung zur Nebensache degradiert und den Leser trotzdem bei Laune hält." - Thomas Hermann, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "What follows is . . . well, even here, the decencies of the whodunnit apply: I can't give away the plot. In general terms, then, it is a riot of cleverness and clever-cleverness, simultaneously delirious and irritating, at times infectiously funny -- the closest thing to chickenpox you will find between hard covers. I wasn't sure at the end whether I wanted to worship Adair or kick him." - Robert Hanks, New Statesman

  • "Gilbert Adair -- though fantastically clever-clever, and horribly addicted not only to alliteration but also to puns and to literary in-jokes so self-referential that he is perpetually disappearing up his own recto (oh dear, his style is catching) -- has created a hugely enjoyable entertainment. (...) Adair has managed to tease and beguile even this jaded reviewer into enjoying this intelligent, silly, serious, sparkling little squib. The central conceit flirts outrageously with know-it-all conceitedness, but knows it does -- a layer of self-consciousness that might merely have compounded the offence. It is Adairís triumph to transmute this knowingness into apparently self-deprecating wit -- a trick of charm which is as British as Agatha Christie." - Caroline Moore, The Spectator

  • "Evadneís admirers will find this third volume very different. (...) And Then There Was No One is a huge improvement on the previous Evadne books, which, for all their allusive larkiness, replicated the main fault of most classical whodunnits: after the discovery of the corpse, the writer is simply killing time for the bulk of the book until the revelation of the murderer. (...) This novel is an immensely entertaining jeu díesprit, a ragbag of puns and allusions that literary trainspotters will delight in rummaging in, but is there anything to distinguish it from a dozen other such books ? I would say, yes: its quiet poignancy." - Jake Kerridge, The Telegraph

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       And Then There Was No One is the third (and final) volume in Gilbert Adair's series of "Agatha Christie parodies-cum-celebrations-cum-critiques" featuring British mystery-writer Evadne Mount. Evadne makes her first appearance only well into the novel -- but she does appear, in the flesh, which is, at first sight, a bit of a head-scratcher: as readers will recall, and as Adair reminds them, the first two instalments of the series were set in the mid-1930s and then just after the Second World War, while this story is set in ... 2011, which would mean: "that the woman must now be pushing a hundred-and twenty". Adair does offer a reasonably satisfactory explanation for why instead she's only: "a month or two short of her sixty-sixth birthday", but it's not the first (or last) of the fictional contortions on offer here -- though, of course, these are generally very much part of the fun in any Adair-fiction.
       Much of And Then There Was No One is, in its most basic outlines, like the previous two mysteries, not least in the borrowings from and echoes of Christie, beginning with the title. Once again, the murder only takes place about midway through the novel; once again there is a small group of people who all manage not to: "have an altogether satisfactory alibi" and could potentially be responsible; once again, Evadne makes a friendly but high-stakes wager as to whether she will figure out whodunnit -- and once again, she does figure it out. But Adair still has few tricks and twists up his sleeve, too, and while he bides his time, the novel's conclusion -- a longer Epilogue-chapter -- turns things quite beyond the previous variations on Adair's theme, making for a very nice conclusion to this trilogy (and more).
       The novel begins with a Prologue, an overview of the life and career of author Gustav Slavorigin -- including, in the opening sentence, the information that he was murdered on 11 September 2011, at a Sherlock Holmes Festival held in Meiringen, Switzerland (which is, of course, right by the Reichenbach Falls that Holmes and nemesis Moriarty (apparently) fell to their deaths from). The Bulgarian-born Slavorigin had a brilliant career, named to Granta's Twenty Best Novelists after publication of his first novel and going on to win the Booker Prize for his second, but it all derailed with the publication of a book of essays, Out of a Clear Blue Sky. The collection of anti-American essays culminated in the notorious title-piece, which discussed the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and other targets, a callous: "polemic designed to stir up controversy" -- which it very effectively did. Slavorigin soon found himself with a Rushdie-like fatwa against him, and a bounty of a hundred million dollars on his head, courtesy of a reclusive Texan billionaire, forcing the author into a life of hiding.
       The novel proper then begins in 2011 -- and properly introduces the narrator, our very own author, Gilbert Adair, playing himself. He receives a last-minute invitation (or summons) to the Sherlock Holmes festival in Switzerland -- last minute, but not entirely out of left field, as his most recent work of fiction was the (fictional) The Unpublished Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. Among the expected other guests is Umberto Eco (a no-show), as well as a motley group of authors whom Adair vaguely knows -- not least among them, Evadne Mount -- as well as a mystery guest (not that there's any mystery about who that will be).
       Adair has good fun with the festival-scenes and authors, and even slips in a decent little Holmes-story from his fictional collection, 'The Giant Rat of Sumatra'. He even summarizes his Q & A after his public reading -- where, among other things, he insists that there would be no follow-up to The Act of Roger Murgatroyd and A Mysterious Affair of Style, as:

I have had my fill of cardboard characters and preposterous plotlines. What I desire to write now is something more personal, a work of genuine depth and ambition.
       Adair encounters Evadne, too, but the real fireworks start with the arrival of the mystery guest, the man with the bounty on his head, who hasn't been seen in public for years. The larger (and louder) than life Slavorigin is, of course, quite the character, and immediately makes his presence felt. His murder, soon after his arrival -- at the local Sherlock Holmes Museum, pierced by an arrow --, comes as no surprise, since it was announced in the novel's opening line, but the mystery as to whodunnit remains. The police quickly tend towards the theory that it was an outsider, lured by the huge bounty on the writer's head, but of course the small circle of festival-guests also offers themselves as potential killers .....
       Adair considers who might be behind the puzzling murder, following a few clues and red herrings. A confident -- but suspect ? -- Evadne makes her wager with the author as to who will discover the identity of the murderer first, and the denouement then of course has her make the big reveal, with the explanation to it.
       If (initially) not entirely unexpected, Adair still manages to nicely twist and draw out that clever resolution, for some very good fun; it's a great capstone, to both work and author.
       Throughout, the self-referential angle -- Adair featuring in his own novel -- works well, down to the personal asides about his life and work (right down to mention of Michael Dibdin's harsh review of The Act of Roger Murgatroyd -- complete with Slavorigin's observation that Dibdin: "died not long after. Spooooky ..."). Best of all are of course the confrontations between Adair and his character Evadne, who understandably has her issues with him and has some harsh truths for him:
Gilbert Adair the postmodernist ? What a joke ! What a farce ! What you don't seem to realise, Gilbert, is that this is 2011. Postmodernism is dead, it's so last century, it's as hopelessly passé as Agatha Christie herself. Nobody gives two hoots about self-referentiality any longer, just as nobody gives two hoots, or even a single hoot, about you. Your books are out of sight, out of sound, out of fashion and out of print, but you just won't let go, will you ? You just won't give up. Even now, even in this very chapter, even with this very conceit [...] you're hoping to seem more postmodern than Borges or Burgess, Barth, Barthes or Barthelme. Botheration, now you've got me doing it !
       And Then There Was No One is an enjoyable last volume -- especially in its conclusion -- to a fun trilogy, the personal touch (and reveals) working particularly well here (and of course making it a must for any Adair-fan).

       (The focus on -- and detailed description of -- Slavorigin's anti-Americanism, and the use of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks (including having events come to a head on their tenth anniversary) do seem reasonable in terms of providing a foundation for parts of the plot, but one wonders the extent to which this too is personal -- a way to slip some cultural critique in, while also acknowledging that he understands that there was never really a place for his work in that market, as, for all Adair's success in the UK and certain foreign markets, his fiction seems to have fared surprisingly poorly in the US, with much of it -- this volume included -- not even finding a US publisher.
       Interestingly, also, Adair set this novel (slightly) in the future, writing in 2008 about 2011; rather creepily, Adair did in fact in die in 2011 (albeit in December, not September).)

- M.A.Orthofer, 12 February 2019

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And Then There Was No One: Reviews: Gilbert Adair Other books by Gilbert Adair under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Gilbert Adair (1944-2011) wrote several novels, as well as several works of non-fiction. He also translated Georges Perec's A Void, for which he won the Scott Moncrieff Prize.

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