Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie

April 8, 2013

Plot summary (from the publisher): Mystery writer Ariadne Oliver has been invited to Woodleigh Common, where a Hallowe’en party is underway for a group of local adolescents. One of the guests is a young girl known for telling tall tales of murder and intrigue. When the girl is found drowned in an apple-bobbing tub, Ariadne wonders just how tall her latest tale was. Which of the party guests wanted to keep her quiet? Unmasking a killer this Hallowe’en isn’t going to be easy for Hercule Poirot – there isn’t a soul in Woodleigh who believes this little storyteller was even murdered…

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • Poirot was involved in the investigation nearly from the beginning. I much prefer this formula than the one that has him showing up close to the end and solving things in just a few chapters.
  • Christie spent a great deal of time emphasizing the fact that Joyce was a liar, so I figured that the girl didn’t actually witness a murder. But I couldn’t make the same leap as Poirot and conclude that the girl must have been repeating a story from her best friend Miranda (“We tell each other everything.”). Christie played fair with this point. The clues were there for the astute reader to pick up on.
  • The broken vase/spilled water was another clue I should have picked up on. I thought Rowena Drake had indeed seen the killer and that she was simply lying/covering for the person. I had no idea that she was actually the killer herself and used the spilled vase as a plausible explanation for her wet clothes. It should have been clear that she was the killer — if only because Poirot said the killer must have had wet clothes and no one else at the party did.
  • The book was blissfully short, as are most Christie works.

Disliked:

  • The big one, of course, was the motive for the murders. Christie acknowledged as much herself by having Ariadne Oliver repeatedly say, “Would anyone really kill just for that?” So as far as I can make out, Rowena Drake and the architect Michael Garfield originally killed the au pair girl Olga so they could get their hands on the rich woman’s (Mrs. Llewelyn Smith’s) money, buy a remote island, and make a beautiful landscape garden there?? But Miranda witnessed them disposing of the body. Rowena thought someone was watching them, but couldn’t figure out who. Then when Joyce blabbed at the party about seeing a murder, Rowena sprang into action, thinking this was her witness. Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty thin and contrived!
  • The book was boring in many places. The lengthy description of the quarry springs to mind, as do various witness interviews that seemed to just go in circles without producing any new developments and descriptions of the party set-up. Did we really need to hear about the local store’s burlap aisle runner selection to get a feel for the decor? It was hard to get into the story.
  • I still don’t like Ariadne Oliver. She seems flighty and useless in an actual investigation. Why was that particular character necessary for this novel? Was Oliver popular with Christie’s fans when Christie was still alive?
  • Christie didn’t really produce any viable suspects in this one, instead settling for speculations about a “sexual deviant” on the loose. I think murder mysteries are more effective when there is a roomful of named suspects, each with a good, solid motive for killing the victim.

Rating:

I haven’t really enjoyed Agatha Christie’s later works, and Hallowe’en Party was no exception. It felt like Christie was just going through the motions with this one, and though it was still entertaining to a point, it’s not something I’ll ever read again (or even remember beyond next week). I give this one 3 stars out of 5.

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