Mystery master Agatha Christie haunts with ‘Halloween Party’

Mystery master Agatha Christie haunts with ‘Halloween Party’

Mystery master Agatha Christie haunts with ‘Halloween Party’(Oct. 30, 2023) — In response to the request for seasonal haunting topics, I found myself in the company of Agatha Christie’s “Hallowe’en Party.” It’s subtitle, “A Hercule Poirot Mystery” told me that although I could count on Christie’s writing, I would find myself tripping over Hercule Poirot’s correct pronunciation no matter how many times I practiced saying it. Yes, I know I didn’t have to say it out loud, but for some annoying reason my brain insisted that I read it with the correct pronunciation.

What caught my attention in this 1969 novel, which is probably not new to many of you, are the things that were part of the 60s, things I had forgotten went back that far. “Do you know what you sound like?” asks Mrs. Oliver of Poirot after he explains all the facts he will need to solve the crime. She then likens Poirot to a computer. And Poirot’s comment about sexy girls wanting “a pop singer with a raucous voice, expressive eyes and large masses of unruly hair” may take today’s reader back a bit.

They may not be specifically named, but when Mrs. Oliver suggests that Poirot should buy more comfortable shoes, shoes “all the hippy-looking boys wear nowadays,” Hush Puppies almost immediately comes to mind. Poirot remarks that girls’ skirts were getting shorter and shorter while boys looked like “peacocks or birds of paradise.” Christie’s language, English for sure, but very English indeed, occasionally sent this reader to a dictionary. I can’t ever remember using the word mountebank.

Bobbing for apples

“Hallowe’en Party” gives bobbing for apples a whole new meaning. The party, given by a wealthy widow in a community not far from London, is an annual event. The characters include those who supplied the spooky atmospheric special effects (lights, mirrors, just the right size bobbing bucket), the cooks, the invited children, from youngsters to teens, the parents of those children, and miscellaneous others who would never miss a Hallowe’en party. The guest of honor is Mrs. Oliver, a popular murder mystery novelist (Agatha Christie, maybe?) visiting her friend who is among those at the party.

Let’s cut to the chase. Sometime shortly before the guests have left, a young girl who bragged of once witnessing a murder, is herself murdered by downing in the bobbing for apples bucket. Mrs. Olivers suspects the girl’s death is not an accident and calls upon her friend Hercule Poirot to help. The mystery is superb. We find out almost all there is to know about almost everybody who attended or helped at the party. They are all suspects.

Poirot’s sleuthing goes back generations so that before the novel ends, the number of murders is at least four. The reader continues to guess and re-guess until smartly moustached Hercule Poirot puts us out of our misery. The answer(s) is fiendishly clever and uncovers witches, jealous lovers, a forged will, faeries, a covered wishing well, and a seductive hidden rock garden.

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Sunny Solomon
Sunny Solomon
Freelance writer at Clayton Book Club | Website

Sunny Solomon holds an MA in English/Creative Writing, San Francisco State University. She is a book reviewer for “The Clayton Pioneer” and her poetry and other writing has been published in literary journals, one chapbook, In the Company of Hope and the collection, Six Poets Sixty-six Poems. She was the happy manager of Bonanza Books, Clayton, CA and Clayton Books, Clayton, CA. She continues to moderate a thriving book club that survived the closure of the store from which it began. Sunny currently lives next to the Truckee in Reno, NV.