I picked up Never Coming Home by Kate Williams because I’m a sucker for a YA murder mystery, but squealed internally when I realized that it’s a modern retelling of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None – easily one of the most chilling and addictive mysteries published (made into a miniseries in 2015!). Even better, it also has bits of The Breakfast Club mixed in, which gives a one-two punch of cult classic storylines.
Unknown Island is a new, highly exclusive hospitality experience (read: fancy resort) that’s been building hype for months through a slick and tempting ad campaign. Now, the island has finally invited it’s First Ten guests: ten influencers from various platforms and niche interest areas, all under 21 and up-and-coming. But it’s not until they arrive that they realize there’s something else they all hold in common…they all hold a deadly secret. That in itself might just be unsettling, until the first of them dies. And then it soon becomes clear that whoever’s invited them has no intention of letting them leave alive.
I appreciated a lot of things about this book including the quick-paced storyline, the multiple POV narration, and the true diversity represented. As a fan of the original it was fun to find the echoes of the original material sprinkled throughout the text; while it skillfully follows the same path as the original, the characters and their backgrounds aren’t exact copies of Christie’s originals, so it’s not immediately obvious who’s the dastardly criminal mastermind. Each of the characters gets their own voice and has a distinct identity — which is not to say it doesn’t get confusing at times to remember who’s who — but what’s really effective about the narrative style is that flipping quickly between different perspectives mirrors the horror of paranoia kicking in as the body count keeps climbing and you’re not sure who to believe. Moreover, while I wouldn’t say this adaptation is necessarily better than Christie’s original, it’s definitely more relevant to modern senses of what’s terrifying, as it shines a spotlight on how not anonymous social media is and what can really happen to kids who live mostly online. True to the original, however, it doesn’t shy away from a nuanced and unresolved examination of what it means to be a good or bad person, or what it really means to have justice be done.
If you’re a mystery lover, distrustful of social media, devour slasher films and psychological thrillers, or are generally haunted by Lord of the Flies‘ death-in-paradise vibes, DO NOT miss out on this genius, terrifying thrill ride.