In Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, the characters die in accordance with a children's nursery rhyme, copies of which are hanging in each of the guest rooms.
The first line of the rhyme is "Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine." Anthony Marston is the first character to die. He drinks whiskey that is poisoned with cyanide and chokes to death.
The next line of the rhyme is as follows: "Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight." Ethel Rogers is the next character in the novel to die. She goes to sleep on the first night on the island and is found dead the following morning of unknown causes.
The rhyme continues: "Eight little Soldier Boys traveling in Devon; One said he'd stay there and then there were seven." Later on the same day of Mrs. Rogers' death, General John MacArthur dies. He accepts that there is a killer after him and waits by the edge of the water for him/her. The killer hits him in the back of the head.
At this point, the remaining characters realize that the mysterious deaths are consistent with the children's rhyme.
The next line of the rhyme says, "Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were six." Thomas Rogers is the next to die. In accordance with the rhyme, he is found dead from an axe wound sustained while chopping wood.
The rhyme continues: "Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five." Emily Brent dies next. She is injected with potassium cyanide, which is comparable to being stung by a bee, and found dead in the drawing room.
The next line of the rhyme is as follows: "Five little Soldier Boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four." Justice Wargrave is found dressed as a judge and apparently dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Dr. Edward Armstrong pronounces him dead; however, this is later revealed to be a faked death.
The next line of the rhyme is as follows: "Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three." The novel's next fatality is Dr. Armstrong who is pushed over a cliff and subsequently drowns.
The rhyme continues: "Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two." William Blore dies next after he is crushed by a heavy, bear-shaped marble clock that is pushed from the ledge of Vera Claythorne's window.
The next line of the rhyme is as follows: "Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was one." Vera and Phillip Lombard find Dr. Armstrong's body on the beach. Each believes the other is responsible for his death. Vera suggests they move the body, but this is really a ruse for her to grab his gun. Her plan works, she takes the gun, and as Phillip tries to take it back, Vera shoots him dead.
The final line of the poem is: "One little Soldier Boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none." After killing Phillip, Vera is traumatized and overcome by guilt. She hangs herself according to the last line of the children's rhyme.
The police arrive on the island and attempt to make sense of the many mysterious deaths. They find a confession written by Justice Wargrave. In his confession, he says that he has always experienced, in equal measure, a desire for justice and bloodlust. He was able to satisfy both urges in his profession as a judge, but after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, he decided to punish several people who he felt escaped justice. He is responsible for the other characters' deaths and tricked Dr. Armstrong into helping him fake his death. After his plan is complete, he shoots himself, this time dying for real.