JRFJRF Ontario, Canada
Spoiler Alert! This discussion contains revealing detailing about Hallowe'en Party. 

While I have read all of Agatha Christie books, there are a select number that I love to re-read. A Murder is Announced, Murder is Easy, Funerals are Fatal - these, among others, hold a special place in my affections. Perfect mysteries. Perfect characterizations. Perfect murders. Perfect motives. Perfect resolutions. 

An anomaly among my list of favourites has always been Hallowe'en Party, a later Agatha Christie title that almost never figures as a fan favourite. And i can see why -- you have an out-of-left field resolution, repetitive dialogue, muddled characterizations, an over reliance on co-incidence and plot holes you could drive a truck through. Cases in point:
* A resolution that fingers two characters who don't have even one interaction in the story
* A never-ending barrage of characters sounding off about England deinstitutionalizing mental patients
* A lazy plot contrivance about a forged will, without any real sense as to why
* A murder in retrospective plot with lots of murder potentials (a school teacher, a legal clerk) but one that ignores the most obvious (man with polio struck by a car)
* A confusing timeline (did the aunt die before or after the man with polio was struck by a car?)
* A poor depiction of mothers (Joyce's and Miranda's)

Despite its flaws, I love Hallowe'en Party.  I love the Hallowe'en theme. I love Ariadne Oliver in the book. I love the concept (boastful child says she has witnessed a murder and then is murdered herself). I love the garden. I love Hercule's description of Michael when he first meets him in the garden. I love Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe (though she doesn't even appear in the book).  I love half of the murder resolution (the one involving a vase).

It seems likely to me that as one of her later book, Ms. Christie tripped up in executing what I think could have been one of her best. In the hopes that I don't raise the wrath of her fans, part of me wishes that it could be possible to go in to "fix" some of the elements of the novel that make it less than perfect. This is what I would fix:
* the confusing time-line
* I would have the two murderers meet
* I would rejig the character of Miranda's mother and her relationship to Michael

Would others like to see a "fixed" Hallowe'en Party?


  • I think I would like it. You are absolutely right about the flaws, and yet there is a fascination in the book that makes me read it again every once in a while - and again and again I am frustrated at the flaws. However, I think the new book should be new - that is, a book inspired by "Halloween", with permission from the owners, but with a different name and different character names.However, I'm not sure another author would be able to catch the unearthly charm of Michael, Miranda and the garden.

    I may have mentioned this before: Ellis Peters' book "Flight of a Witch" has many similar elements SPOILER- the enchanting, unearthly young girl, the magic but uncanny place that turns out to be tragic, the older lover who becomes deadly, the last minute rescue of the girl by 2 young boys/men. You might like to read it. 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    JRF, you are right in all your points about Halloween Party but I have never thought of them before, I have just put up with the book because I suppose I don't dislike the Book enough to notice also, not everything in Christie Books is explained so I suppose it can't have been odd to me that the Villains had never apparently met but just because it is never spelt out it doesn't mean they hadn't after all SPOILER ALERT there is a Child without a Father so the possibility that the Villains met is there isn't it?
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    I guess you're right about the flaws, @JRF. As you mentioned (about not figuring at almost any list of fans favorites), it's not one of my favorites, although I like this book more nowadays than when I first read it a long time ago. And the reason is exactly as you said ("a resolution that fingers two characters who don't even have one interaction in the story"), but I love Poirot and Ariadne working together, the theme (Hallowe'en Party). Certainly, this book could be better. Despite of the flaws and not one of my favorites, I like this book the way it is. Probably, if it was fixed it would be another book.
  • I think it needs a rewrite, or, more to the point, changes to be made for a screen adaptation. As I've mentioned before, the SPOILER ALERT vase and somebody needing to get wet is excellent. The whole scene with the party, the exits, and who could have had access - great. The boasting girl - that one again: see Dead Mans Folly, is ok. Weird how the siblings are so dispassionate about the SPOILER A death: hardly a tear, and critisizing dead sis. A bit likea Jerry at the end of Moving Finger - dispassionately appraising the deaths and deciding it isn't the end of the world, as they weren't nice people. The action around the forged will in Halloween could have been well-managed if better integrated. Retrospective investigations of murders never satisfying. Idea of au pere seeming convincing is good. Often we can just tell if somebody Is being truthful, and she is, and it shows. For me, AC is not showing a proper understanding of Michael. He is a characature of the 60s or 70s young hippy creative, pagan, middle class, aesthetic. He is unconvincing. Good looking people don't like beautiful things just because they are beautiful themselves. I would have more of the headteacher speaking, giving insights. More of the young men who help at the end. I,d screen more of the boastful girl and the one who actually saw the murder together in the garden, exploring, giving viewer a feel for how it could all have happened.
  • Apologies, my previous post rather poorly laid out since writing it on an ipad.

    Steered by your formidable analysis, JRF, I think that the key, for me, would be to focus on the village, the SPOILER ALERT and interconnect the characters and locations. We are now going to have teenage amateur sleuths central to the action. There should be more involvement, eg more scenes involving, the headteacher, who has sharp insight, shrewd judgement of character (eg, in appraising the you teenage boys who Poirot trusts to help)  and in this sense, is not dissimilar to Miss Marple. She is going to speak to the boys and warn them from time to time. The will plot would need to be simplified. Perhaps, the man with polio would have to be the one murdered and buried. The gardens could have belonged to him and his wife, the female murderer.  Perhaps, forget the will, and the old lady. Michael would become a greedy, good looking Lawrence Redding type who likes garden design, and sees that the female murderer will do anything for him. Forget the sacrifice scene involving Miranda, at the end. Instead, Michael realises his female accomplice is out of control with her obsession with him, and becomes nervous that she seems to suspect that he and Miranda's mum have a history, and seems jealous. There will be the odd scene of Michael and Miranda's mum talking - but we the audience won't know their past until later in the drama.

    Changes to the plot would be needed to place the action in one setting and to gain an holistic feel, as you get in Evil Under the Sun, Murder at the Vicarage and Murder on the Orient Express. A good director might change the big early-on event to an afternoon treasure hunt in the wooded garden which would be next door to the female murderer's house, or even a part of it. (which would be more of a small estate) followed by an evening Halloween Party, and maybe, for the older teenagers, a trip into the wooded gardens to see their future spouse at midnight (traditionally, this custom is done, of course, in the open, not a house.) That way you get a link with the gardens and a delightful chance for the audience to sense the mystery of the garden as it is linked to Halloween., We need justification for how the female murderer might have seen, watched and become attracted to Michael who is next door in the garden - or, alternatively working for her, if she owns the gardens. 

    The female murderer has a small estate - 10 acres with woodland, maybe the garden is hers, and those two teenage boys do work experience in it for her. We, the audience, see the boys noticing things. One of them is a boyfriend of Miranda. Joyce would be earning pocket money taking female murderer's dogs (great danes) for a walk. The dogs are naughty, and often bound off into Michael's magical garden next door. That way, there would be opportunity to have Joyce having to go into the gardens with the teenage boys to help her. She would, of course, fancy the other boy, and be boasting to him about all the adult things she has seen, as the lads clear the woodland as work experience right next door to the garden. The boasting would be part of the tv drama, and a bit subtle, like, "I can't tell you what I've seen, but it involves what you see in the movies, and it might have something to do with where we are now.'. Michael would become narked, and want the teenagers out of the gardens.( Because they don't want to get bumped off, even stupid 11 year olds, don't go around saying to EVERYBODY, eg, not just people they fancy on the quiet that they have seen a murder being committed.) The female murderer would overhear the boasting whilst she is inspecting her boundary fencing with the handyman.

    Joyce and Miranda would have to be 16. There would have to be a reason for them being friends.I suppose it would be easiest to fall back on the Girl Guides idea used in Dead Man's Folly. They are friends through the guides which Miranda's mum runs.  Miranda's mother is a posh, lady-interior designer, and she is making all the fabrics for female murderers rooms. Female murderer has a sudden yen to completely change around her decor, and to change herself her hair, etc to be rather more natural and crafty. Miranda's mother is a bit ethereal and hippyish, but in a very upper middle class way. Female murderer wants to grab some of her style, and in a curious, uncanny, sort of second sight way, as some sociopaths have, she divines a kind of synch between Miranda's mum and Michael, - she sort of feels she needs to be more like Miranda's  mum to hold on to Michael's interest. Miranda's mum and female murderer are also involved in amateur dramatics, and are becoming fascinated by medieval plays, listen to a lot of high-brow British folk music as well as classical, and want to perform some. The whole late 1960s vibe is affecting them in a Chelsea type of way.  There comes a point when female murderer starts to suspect that Michael and Miranda's mum have a history - and Miranda is so like him. It makes her behave strangely to Miranda. Michael has his eye on the female murderer's estate, and all the resources she can put at his disposal. 

    The problem for the original plot is the presence of Miranda and her mother in the village, and their relationship to Michael not being suspected by anyone. If the female murderer is seen growing suspicious of  Miranda, and her mother, and checking up on them, and asking sharp penetrating questions, a clever director could make it look like the female murderer is a nice person, and is on to the right track, and Miranda or her mother are likely candidates to have killed SPOILER ALERT Joyce. A director would have to play the female murderer as open, likable and engaging, and Miranda's mum as a bit withdrawn, distant, other-wordly and to be suspected. Miranda would need to be a bit goth, and have an odd interest in pagan ceremonies.

    In may ways, I believe the female murderer would be of the type of Anne Protheroe in Murder at the Vicarage. 'A Quaker type' as Grisleda says: calm and controlled, but passionate and un-stoppable once moved. The female murderer in Halloween Party is convincingly drawn. Michelle Collins from Eastenders and Corrie ( a phenomenal actress, could do her well) or Niamh Cussock. Like Anne Protheroe, her attachment to her lover would be irrational and making her capable of doing anything.
  • Michael would be caught whilst trying to bump off his accomplice who is becoming hysterically jealous.
  • JRFJRF Ontario, Canada
    Griselda - I love all your great fixing ideas!

  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    The Only Adaptations that should be re-made are Cards On The Table to make it more like the Book and Appointment With Death as The Abuse should be Emotional not Physical and The Big Four and The Labours of Hercules in each case we should have Hour Long Adaptations, The Only Book I would re-write is Murder In Mesopotamia and I would put Hastings in it and make it In my view Readable.
  • Thank you JRF!
  • I agree with some of your fixings Griselda.  I particularly like the way it was adapted for the television series.  One area where I disagree is with the vase.  I thought it was a little obvious because it kept being mentioned so it had to have some significance.  There was nothing wrong with that device and it was quite clever but it wasn't executed the best way.  Maybe if other guests were also inexplicably wet, it would have worked better in my opinion. 
  • I think the book Hallowe'en Party is fine the way it is.  The only ones I would pick apart for technical reasons would be some of the earlier books, as she was still developing her style and could be clumsy while trying to include too much.  It seems to me that she recognized these flaws and sometimes returned to her earlier books while writing her later ones, as if to answer some of these criticisms or was dwelling on how she would have written it had she known better at the time how to do so.  She might have had the wish to deal with a similar mystery in her signature style, unlike some of her floundering 1920's techniques.  I would say Postern of Fate is an example of returning to her earlier mystery The Secret Adversary; the mysteries are much alike.
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I like Spence and Elspeth but I think this is the dullest of the Poirot/Ariadne Books
  • Yes, you're right. I must be very obtuse, because, when I first read it, I didn't realise that she must have been the one who did it because she was wet. I didn't visualise that the person would get very wet, with all the splashing. But, many, such as yourself, would immediately see this.
  • EtlevaEtleva Albania
    edited October 2016
    I've just finished Halloween Party. I love the garden too and the description of Michael.. The forged will seemed to me a little bit boring, while I was expecting Elspeth to be more active on the ideas of the murder's plot, as a village's spinster . Anyhow I have fully enjoyed the book in these chilly Fall evenings .
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    I don't think you are obtuse the fact she is wet is a clue, if we all picked up on every clue we would all have a 100% solve rate and that would make life dull.
  • That is true. I didnt connect that because she was wet, she must have been the killer. I just suspected her because they kept mentioning that incident so I knew it must have been important
  • Even after finishing the book, I still have the idea that SPOILER the murderer of Joyce was the narcissist one (I'm not mentioning the name ) ... May be because after his first introduction and the description of the garden too, I was completely convicted that this character was the murderer at the party ...
  • RE- Hallowe'en Party is one of the very cruel books of Agatha Christie. I do agree with the critical points you noted. It is quite  brutal considering too many children are murdered. Also ,some things never made sense to me , 
    i. Why did Leopold want money ?he was only nine and we never know if he actually saw the murderer of Joyce or found Joyce dead. 
    ii. How did the young schoolteacher die ? Was she drowned ,or committed suicide ?
    iii. Who killed Leslie Ferrier ? Michael or Mrs Drake ?
    In the tv adaptation of Hallowe'en Party , they handled it quite well. Especially where they chose to show Miranda's mother and Michael interacting . That was never there in the book. 

    And Ariadne Oliver didn't have anything to do in this mystery except to fret and worry. I found the conversation between Poirot and the adolescent boys Nicholas & Desmond interesting , because they mentioned something very ancient but intriguing ,about Adam and Eve and apples ,  Snapdragon compared to hell fire, and baptism. Another scene involving these three would be necessary , because it is left to the readers to decipher that the boys were told to save Miranda. 
  • RE- Hallowe'en Party is one of the very cruel books of Agatha Christie. I do agree with the critical points you noted. It is quite  brutal considering too many children are murdered. 
    When the murder of children is involved, it is VERY cruel, but unfortunately it's realistic and Christie portrays that in part but what she doesn't do in "Hallowe'en Party", from what I can remember, is that there's no depiction of the emotional impact that these children's deaths has on the families left behind. Whereas when it comes to the elderly, such as the death of Mrs. Ascher in "The ABC Murders", we see the niece Mary Drower's reaction and there appears to be more sadness and emotion than with any of the victim's families in the novel addressed in this thread.
  • HerculeAndAchilleHerculeAndAchille Harrogate, England
    I agree with @ChristieFanForLife as we don't see Mrs Reynolds reacting strongly to these deaths - even Miranda, who was Joyce's best friend, displays little emotion. This, in my mind, shows two things:
    1. Mrs Reynolds is more of a histrionic woman than one who directly displays emotion. We may also infer from Joyce and Leopold's irritating habit of sniffing out secrets, that she may not have minded greatly about their deaths, preferring instead to focus her energies on Ann.
    2. That Miranda may not understand the full implications of death. We see from her friendship with Michael Garfield that he told her how wonderful death is, which may have made her feel that Joyce received more of an unjust reward than an early end.
    Also, in respect to Mary Drower, I think that her great sadness and grief stemmed from the fact that Mrs Ascher was all the family she had left. Mrs Reynolds (at the point of Joyce's death) still had Ann and Leopold, and Miranda had her mother and Michael. I like to think, sometimes, that Mrs Reynolds may have been privately upset about the death, but chose to behave as normal in the interest of her children's upbringing.

    I also found it very interesting that Rowena Drake was more upset (or appeared to be more upset) than either Joyce's best friend, mother, siblings or schoolteacher.

    Which, in a sense, is the cruelty of life - not all deaths are lamented...
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
    Now having talked to someone else who has read Halloween Party It is quite clear to me the School Teacher committed Suicide because of the Love that dare not speak its name
  • edited September 2017
    I'm about to re-read Hallowe'en Party and I hope the fond feelings I had while reading it many years ago will be the same and more so, seeing and thinking about new things I hadn't noticed before. I hope I will have an even greater appreciation for this book, flaws and all. So onto reading it!
  • bryansobryanso California, USA
    Hi, can someone please explain to me two mysteries in my mind?

    1. Leopold heard from Joyce about the murder, so he blackmailed the murderers to get some money.  Buy Joyce didn't know who the murderers are.  How would Leopold know?

    2. The murderers thought Joyce was the one who saw them.  Then later somehow Leopold blackmailed them, so they thought Joyce must have told them.  Now, when and how did they finally learned Miranda was the actual eye-witness?

    Very puzzled.

  • edited September 2018
    bryanso said:
    Hi, can someone please explain to me two mysteries in my mind?

    1. Leopold heard from Joyce about the murder, so he blackmailed the murderers to get some money.  Buy Joyce didn't know who the murderers are.  How would Leopold know?

    2. The murderers thought Joyce was the one who saw them.  Then later somehow Leopold blackmailed them, so they thought Joyce must have told them.  Now, when and how did they finally learned Miranda was the actual eye-witness?

    Very puzzled.

    Good questions, and I don't think they are explicitly answered in the book. However, these are my guesses (SEMI-SPOILERS):

    1. Leopold is described as a snoop and a blackmailer, and also very smart. Perhaps he overheard Miranda telling Joyce about the murder, figured out who the murderers were and tried a spot of blackmail. (obviously Miranda didn't tell Joyce who the murderers were, because otherwise Joyce wouldn't have talked about seeing the murder in front of one of the murderers)

    2. One possibility: Once Poirot starts investigating, what everybody tells him (and he accepts) is that Joyce is a liar. Obviously Joyce knew about the murder, and given that Miranda was her only friend and that Leopold somehow found out about the murder, it is a reasonable assumption that the real witness to the murder was Miranda who told Joyce. 

    Another possibility: Miranda, who felt guilty about Joyce's death, told Michael, whom she liked and trusted.
  • I'd like to add (SPOILER) that one of the murderers felt there was a witness at the time of concealing the body (see Miranda's report in the last chapter). Also that Joyce got really upset when the children asked her to name the murderer, thus raising suspicion that she didn't see the murder, but somehow learned about it from the real witness. 
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