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Hallowe'en Party  
Hallowe'en Party First Edition Cover 1969.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Agatha Christie
Cover artist Not known
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Crime novel
Publisher Collins Crime Club
Publication date November 1969
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 256 pp (first edition, hardcover)
ISBN NA
Preceded by By the Pricking of My Thumbs
Followed by Passenger to Frankfurt

Hallowe'en Party is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in November 1969[1] and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year[2][3]. The UK edition retailed for twenty-five shillings[1]. In preparation for decimalisation on February 15, 1971, it was also priced on the dustjacket at £1.25. The US edition retailed at $5.95[3].

The novel features her Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and the mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver. The novel’s concentration on child murder (with its possible sexual motivation), the irresponsibility of teenagers and the crisis in crime and punishment make it one of Christie’s most modern and unsettling novels. This book was dedicated to P.G. Wodehouse.

Contents

Plot introduction

During the preparation of a Hallowe'en Party, a girl named Joyce Reynolds, told to everyone, including Mrs. Oliver, that she saw a murder once, but only recently realized that it was a murder that she had seen. At the end of the Hallowe'en Party, Joyce was found drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. With Mrs. Oliver's help, Hercule Poirot must unmask the real evil of the night.

Plot summary

Inside Rowena Drake's house, Apple Trees, Ariadne Oliver and others are preparing a Hallowe'en Party for children. In on the preparations of the party are Judith Butler, Mrs. Oliver's friend; Leopold, Joyce and Anne Reynolds, Nicholas Ransom, Desmond Holland, Cathie Johnson, Beatrice Ardley, Elisabeth Whittaker, Miss Lee, and others. While they are preparing, thirteen-year old Joyce Reynolds mentions that she once witnessed a murder. The others, including Mrs. Oliver, think she is lying.

The Hallowe'en Party consists of many activities, including a broomstick competition, a flour game, and bobbing for apples. Mrs. Goodbody plays the role of a witch at the party, and girls can look into a mirror to know what their future husbands will look like (a picture of the husband is said to reflect in the mirror). The group eats supper, the prizes are presented, and the party ends after a game of Snapdragon.

The next day Mrs. Oliver goes to London seeking Hercule Poirot's help. She tells him that after snapdragon (which took place in the dining room), Joyce went missing and she was later found drowned in an apple-bobbing tub in the library. Mrs. Oliver repeats to Poirot Joyce's claim that she once witnessed a murder committed; Mrs. Oliver now wonders if Joyce might have been telling the truth, which might provide someone with a motive to have silenced her.

Poirot goes to Apple Trees to interview Rowena Drake. Rowena doesn't believe that Joyce witnessed a murder; rather, she thinks it was just Joyce's attempt to impress Mrs. Oliver. Next to be interviewed are the Reynolds. Mrs. Reynolds can't say that Joyce ever told her that she saw a murder. Leopold, Joyce's younger brother, doesn't believe that Joyce saw a murder, but he did hear Joyce telling all about it. Ann, Joyce's older sister, also doesn't believe that Joyce saw a murder; she says Joyce was a liar.

Hercule Poirot asks his old friend, ex-Superintendent Spence, to give him a list of murders which took place years ago that could possibly be the murder that Joyce claimed to have witnessed; Spence obliges: There is, Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe, the aunt of Rowena Drake's late husband, who apparently died of a heart attack. Her death is suspicious because afterward, a codicil to her will was discovered. Authorities believe that the codicil was faked by an au pair girl (frequently mispronounced "opera" in the book), Olga Seminoff, who disappeared after the forgery was discovered. Other candidate murders involve Charlotte Benfield, a sixteen-year-old shop assistant found dead of multiple head injuries, with two young men under suspicion; Lesley Ferrier, a lawyer's clerk who was stabbed in the back; and Janet White, a school teacher who was strangled. Hercule Poirot thinks Janet White's murder the most probable murder for Joyce to have witnessed, because strangulation might not appear at first sight to be murder.

Hercule Poirot continues his investigation by interviewing Dr. Ferguson, who tells Poirot that Joyce was once his patient. When Poirot goes to the Elms school, he is greeted by the headmistress, Miss Emlyn. Meanwhile, a Maths teacher named Elisabeth Whittaker, who was also present at the party, gives Hercule Poirot an important piece of evidence when she reveals that while the party-goers were playing Snapdragon, Elisabeth went out to hall and saw Rowena Drake coming out of the lavatory on the first floor landing. Rowena stood for a moment before coming downstairs, looking startled by something or someone she may have seen in the open door of the library, and then accidentally dropped the flower vase she was holding. Other suggestive pieces of evidence include the fact that Lesley Ferrier had previously been suspected of forgery. Were Lesley and Olga working together to secure the Mrs. Llewellyn Smythe's inheritance?

Poirot visits a sunken garden built for Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe in an abandoned quarry, where he meets the handsome and talented young man who designed the garden, Michael Garfield. While there, he also meets Judith Butler's daughter, Miranda Butler, a striking young girl who is close to Michael and spends a great deal of time in the Quarry Garden.

Mrs. Drake meets Poirot at his guest house to tell him that Leopold Reynolds, Joyce's younger brother, has been drowned. Poirot reveals that Leopold had been blackmailing Joyce's murderer and got in over his head. Mrs. Drake, obviously very upset by Leopold's death, admits that she saw Leopold in the library, which caused her to think he might have killed his sister.

Poirot persuades the police to dig up an abandoned well in the Quarry Garden. Within its depths are discovered the dead body/remains of Olga, who had been stabbed like Ferrier. Poirot sends Mrs. Oliver to get Mrs. Butler and Miranda safely away from the village as soon as possible, but when they stop for lunch, Miranda is abducted by Michael Garfield, who takes her to a pagan sacrificial altar and tries to kill her. He is prevented from doing so by Nicholas Ransom and Desmond Holland, two teenagers who had been at the Hallowe'en party, whom Poirot had persuaded to trail Miranda. Michael Garfield commits suicide by swallowing the poison that he had intended Miranda to drink.

Miranda Butler tells the authorities that she was the one who saw a murder, not her close friend Joyce, to whom she revealed some of the details of what she witnessed. Miranda admits that in the Quarry garden she saw Michael Garfield and Rowena Drake carrying Olga's dead body and heard Mrs. Drake wonder aloud if anyone was watching them. Joyce, an inveterate fantasist, made the story her own, facilitated by the fact that Miranda did not attend the party and could not contradict her. Rowena Drake heard Joyce and thought that it was Joyce who had seen her and Michael with Olga's corpse. Drake had always sensed that someone was watching them that fateful day. Mrs. Drake intentionally dropped the vase of flowers in front of Miss Whittaker to invent a pretext for being wet after having drowned Joyce. Subsequently, Leopold had used what little he knew to blackmail Rowena, leading to his murder.

Michael Garfield played the role of lover to Olga to help Rowena Drake secure Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe's inheritance. The real will leaving Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe's fortune to Olga had been replaced with a clumsy forgery, produced by Lesley Ferrier, which would be rendered invalid and Rowena Drake, the sexually frustrated wife of an invalid, would ultimately control Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe's estate as her closest relation. Lesley Ferrier and Olga Seminoff were murdered to conceal the deceit. Garfield's motivation was his obsessive, narcissistic desire to construct another perfect garden with Mrs. Drake's money on a Greek island that she has secretly purchased. Poirot hypothesizes that Rowena Drake might have met a similar fate as the other women as Garfield would no longer have any use for her. Poirot's also intuits that the bond between Miranda and Garfield was a familial one: Judith Butler is not a widow, but is rather the mother of Garfield's illegitimate daughter. Garfield's depraved willingness to murder his own daughter confirms the tremendous evil that Poirot has been able to uncover and defeat.

Characters in “Hallowe’en Party”

  • Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective
  • Ariadne Oliver, a writer of detective novels and a friend of Poirot
  • George, Poirot's valet
  • Inspector Timothy Raglan, the investigating officer
  • ex-Superintendent Spence, a retired police officer
  • Elspeth McKay, Superintendent Spence’s sister
  • Alfred Richmond, Chief Constable
  • Joyce Reynolds, a thirteen-year-old girl who declared that she once saw a murder
  • Rowena Drake, the one who owns the house where the Hallowe'en Party took place
  • Judith Butler, a friend of Mrs. Oliver and a young widow
  • Miranda Butler, the daughter of Judith
  • Leopold Reynolds, Joyce's younger brother
  • Ann Reynolds, Joyce's older sister
  • Mrs. Reynolds, Joyce's mother
  • Michael Garfield, a landscape gardener
  • Elizabeth Whittaker, Maths teacher at The Elms school
  • Miss Emlyn, headmistress of The Elms school
  • Mrs. Goodbody, a local cleaning woman who always plays the role of a witch at the party
  • Nicholas Ransom, an eighteen-year-old at the party
  • Desmond Holland, a sixteen-year-old at the party
  • Dr. Ferguson, a physician and police surgeon
  • Jeremy Fullerton, Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe’s solicitor
  • Harriet Leaman, former cleaner for Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe

Literary significance and reception

Robert Weaver in the Toronto Daily Star of December 13, 1969 said, "Hallowe'en Party...is a disappointment, but with all her accomplishments Miss Christie can be forgiven some disappointments...Poirot seems weary and so does the book."[4]

Robert Barnard: "Bobbing for apples turns serious when ghastly child is extinguished in the bucket. The plot of this late one is not too bad, but the telling is very poor: it is littered with loose ends, unrealised characters, and maintains only a marginal hold on the reader's interest. Much of it reads as if spoken into a tape-recorder and never read through afterward."[5]

References or Allusions

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References to other works

  • Superintendent Spence brought to Poirot the case solved in Mrs. McGinty's Dead and which they discuss in Chapter 5. The case is also recollected by Poirot in Chapter 3, when Poirot recalls Mrs. Oliver getting out of a car and “a bag of apples breaking”. This is a reference to her first appearance in Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, Chapter 10.
  • Miss Emlyn mentions in Chapter 10 that she knows of Poirot from Miss Bulstrode, who previously appeared as a character in Cat Among the Pigeons.

References to actual history, geography and current science

  • The first half of the novel contains several discussions in which anxiety is voiced about the Criminal Justice System in Great Britain. This in part reflects the abolition in 1965 of capital punishment for murder.
  • The novel reflects in many respects its time of publication at the end of the permissive sixties, but nowhere more so than when a character uses the word "lesbian" in Chapter 15.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

Graphic novel adaptation

Hallowe-en Party was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on November 3, 2008, adapted and illustrated by "Chandre" (ISBN 0-00-728054-8).

The novel was adapted as part of the twelfth season of Agatha Christie's Poirot with David Suchet, with Zoë Wanamaker reprising her role as Ariadne Oliver. Guest stars include Deborah Findlay as Rowena Drake, Julian Rhind-Tutt as Michael Garfield, Amelia Bullmore as Judith Butler, and Fenella Woolgar as Elizabeth Whittaker. Charles Palmer (who also directed The Clocks for the series) directs this installment, with the screenplay being written by Mark Gatiss (who also wrote the screenplay for Cat Among the Pigeons; he also appeared as a guest star in the adaptation of Appointment with Death).

Publication history

  • 1969, Collins Crime Club (London), November 1969, Hardback, 256 pp
  • 1969, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1969, Hardback, 248 pp
  • 1970, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, 185 pp
  • 1972, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 189 pp
  • 1987, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, ISBN 0-70-891666-X

The novel was first serialised in the weekly magazine Woman's Own in seven abridged instalments from November 15 - December 27, 1969 illustrated with uncredited photographic montages.

In the US, the novel appeared in the December 1969 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.

References

  1. ^ a b Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (Page 15)
  2. ^ John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction - the collector's guide: Second Edition (Pages 82 and 87) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8
  3. ^ a b American Tribute to Agatha Christie
  4. ^ Toronto Daily Star December 13, 1969 (Page 58)
  5. ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie - Revised edition (Page 194). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0-00-637474-3

External links


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