Mrs. Ariadne Oliver turns to Hercule Poirot for help after attending a children’s Hallowe’en Party in this book by Agatha Christie. They have decorating contests, see their true love’s face in a magical mirror, and eat burning raisins soaked in brandy, when they discover Joyce, a 13-year-old girl, drowned in the bucket of water used to bob for apples. The alter-ego of Christie herself, who clearly had fun creating this character, Mrs. Oliver is horrified by this crime, especially since the prolific mystery author’s presence has led earlier to talk of crime. In response, Joyce boasted to all that she saw a murder once, a long time earlier when she was little. Thus, Poirot has to travel once again into the past to solve a mystery, trying to figure out what murder Joyce might have seen earlier and who could have killed her now.
Poirot gets to know the people in the community of Woodleigh Common, looking for possible murders from the past. He reconnects his old friend Superintendent Spence, whom we meet in Mrs. McGinty’s Dead and who has now retired to Woodleigh Common. The common opinion about Joyce seems to be that the girl liked to talk about every aspect of her life so would never have been able to keep her mouth had she actually seen a murder. Further, she was known to adopt the stories of others as her own, leading Poirot to wonder if she actually told the truth about her own experiences.
The book continues with Poirot’s getting to know the community, following the leads to find a solution. The storyline takes plenty of twists and turns as it heads toward a conclusion. It gets complicated as Poirot investigates several possible murders from the past as well as the present murder. Actually, it gets almost too complicated, making the book seem disconnected at times and with too many threads to follow.
I did like the descriptions of nature in this book, as well as the Shakespearean references related to the 12-year-old character of Miranda. The imagery makes it obvious that Christie enjoyed her time spent with nature.
John Moffett reads the narration of this book. While I usually prefer my Poirot books to be read by Hugh Fraser or David Suchet, for this book I enjoyed the way Moffett reads the book. He has a strangely soothing voice and does a very good job.
Hallowe’en Party did not get the best of reviews, and I can understand those concerns. By now Christie was long-tired of her Belgian detective, only writing more books about him at the pressure of her publishers. I personally find this book to be a disappointment. I give it two stars.
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