Hallowe'en Party

Hallowe'en Party is one of my favourite Agatha Christie's. Written right towards the end of her career (she was 79), it was the penultimate Poirot to be written (although Curtain, published posthumously, was chronologically Poirot's last case, it had actually been written many years earlier)

It is a sinister story that centres around the murder of a child. When young Joyce Reynolds announces at a Halloween party that she once saw a murder committed, everyone laughs at her; Joyce is well-known as a compulsive, and often believable, liar. Opinions on Joyce's veracity are however challenged when later that night she is found drowned in the bowl that had been used for apple-bobbing. A distressed Ariadne Oliver, a crime novelist modelled to a certain extent on Agatha Christie herself, approaches Poirot for help with the case. In order to solve the present murder Poirot has to reach back into the past, and find a crime which nobody (except the murderer and a solitary witness) knows has been committed.

In many ways this is Christie at her best. The crime - and what led up to it - is cleverly plotted. Poirot and Ariadne Oliver are their usual sparkling selves, and the young heroine, Miranda, is beautifully portrayed, as are (and I won't reveal who it is) the villain/s. Agatha Christie's portrayal of the youths involved in the plot is less convincing, and this is probably partly because of her age at the time she was writing this - so younger children and older people are much more convincing than those in their teens.

What she is exceptionally good at is creating a malevolent atmosphere. There is a brooding sense of evil throughout the novel which builds wonderfully to the climax. It is also one of her funniest novels - there were occasional moments when I laughed out loud, most notably in Poirot's conversations with the two young men, Desmond and Nicholas. This is very clever as it provides a real counterpoint to the general atmosphere of evil. It's not her best novel, but for anyone who wants to know why Agatha Christie is so admired it's not a bad place to start.


Popular Posts