The Invisible Host was co-written in 1930 by two American journalists, and strikes a remarkable similarity to Agatha Christie’s debut novel And Then There Were None.
In both novels a group of people are invited to a dinner whereupon a mysterious host tells them they will all die by morning. The Invisible Host was written almost 10 years before And Then There Were None, and is widely suspected as the inspiration behind Christie’s murder mystery.
Crime fiction historian Curtis Evans wrote an introduction to the upcoming UK edition of The Invisible Host, saying there is an “astonishing likeness” between the two stories. He notes that there is “not just a matter of similar elements being in play: the entire basic plot idea is the same, the admittedly ingenious variations which Christie played upon it notwithstanding”.
“In general both books are about people entrapped within sealed locations … who are methodically ‘executed,’ as it were, by a seemingly omnipotent unknown assailant who never appears as such but rather speaks to them through mechanical means … All of the people … hide guilty secrets. Each novel opens with them reading or thinking over their invitations … to the penthouse/island from their anonymous host,” explains Evans.
“Christie need never have heard of, nor much less have read, The Invisible Host to have been influenced by it,” he writes. “Is it so implausible to imagine that, at the very least, Christie saw the film and unconsciously drew on it four or five years later when she came to write her brilliant landmark mystery?”
Agatha Christie herself had said that her mystery novel took “a tremendous amount of planning” to write, and that she enjoyed the challenge “because it was so difficult to do that the idea had fascinated me”.
“Ten people had to die without it becoming ridiculous or the murderer being obvious,” she said. “I was pleased with what I had made of it. It was clear, straightforward, baffling, and yet had a perfectly reasonable explanation.”
What do you think, readers? Maybe Christie saw the 1934 film adaptation of the novel called ‘The Ninth Guest’, and was inspired to create her own version of that particular mystery story construct..? Or was it just one of those coincidental moments where multiple people came up with the same idea?
No can really know for sure… A mystery in itself, perhaps.