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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
The book begins with all but two of the ten main characters en route to Indian Island, a mysterious place off the Devon Coast of England, rumored to be owned by either a millionaire or an actress. They have each been invited but none are absolutely clear on the details of their stay. Justice Wargrave, a retired judge, sits in the train mulling over all the rumors in the news about the new owner of Indian Island. He rereads his invitation to vacation there from an old friend, Constance Culmington, thinking she would be just the type to buy such a place.
Vera Claythorne, a young, single teacher, has been hired by a Una Nancy Owen to be her personal secretary on the island. Vera looks forward to getting away after what happened in her past. She reflects on the incident of swimming after a drowning boy but not arriving in time, and her beloved Hugo disappearing from her life shortly after. She forces herself to put Hugo out of her mind as she notices a fellow traveler, Philip Lombard.
Philip Lombard also notices Vera Claythorne, but he quickly turns his thoughts to the job he has been hired to do. Lombard, a former captain, is headed to Indian Island after agreeing to spend a week there in return for a sizable payment. He has not been told what, if any, duties his unnamed client wants him to perform.
Miss Emily Brent, a sixty-five year-old spinster, was invited by an acquaintance for a free vacation at Indian Island. She cannot remember who exactly her host is, but she is happy to go since she has been struggling financially. Proper and old-fashioned, Miss Brent thinks to herself how immodest and weak others can be these days.
General Macarthur is a retired army man invited to Indian Island by a Mr. Owen he has never met. On the train there, he frets about a possible rumor being spread about him among his old colleagues, and blames an officer under him for talking about his secrets.
Dr. Armstrong is a busy and very successful physician, sent for by a Mr. Owen to check on his wifeís health on Indian Island. While driving to Devon, Dr. Armstrong remembers an incident he faced 15 years ago involving his drinking problem, and feels relieved that he avoided catastrophe.
Tony Marston, an attractive young man, speeds himself to Devon in an eye-catching car. Stopping for drinks along the way, he hopes there will be plenty of alcohol and other entertainment on Indian Island.
Mr. Blore, like Lombard, is going to Indian Island under mysterious auspices. He already knows the names of everyone else who is going to the island, and is planning to falsely introduce himself to the other guests as a rich man from South Africa. As an old man disembarks from the train, he warns Blore that the day of judgment is coming soon.
The first chapter introduces eight of the ten main characters (all except the butler and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, who are already on the island) who are traveling on their way to Indian Island. The eight are briefly described and the author moves on to reveal a bit of their inner thoughts while traveling. All have secrets they are keeping to themselves, and although the reader knows little of the details at this point, the author sends the message that each character has a mysterious past with which he must reckon. Thus, the first chapter sets the mood of the book by hinting that things are not necessarily as they seem.
The author begins her frequent use of foreshadowing in this first chapter with a strange old manís warning to Mr. Blore that the judgment day is close at hand. This scene is a rather obvious use of foreshadowing, yet effective nonetheless in setting the suspenseful tone of the book.