Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Book Review: Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie (1969, #40 Hercule Poirot)

A book review of Agatha Christie's Hallowe'en Party.

Read for my own Agatha Christie Project that is a bit of a slow starter, but I'm determined to focus on more in 2022, Hallowe'en Party is considered to be book #40 in the Hercule Poirot series by Agatha Christie.

While I've not read very many of Ms. Christie's books starring the famous Belgian detective, Hallowe'en Party is one of my favorites of the miniseries' adaptations. It's chilling and brilliant and perfectly spooky for the Halloween season, so long as you don't mind the idea of murdered children.

Considering that it is written and set in 1969, there is definitely a different vibe in Hallowe'en Party than her earlier work. All of a sudden there's the question of whether crimes are sex crimes, and young people look slightly wild with younger men wearing long hair, possibly even sandals, and brighter colored clothing. The hippie era struck a blow and not even Poirot was safe from it. Not that I really mind, it's just rather funny considering most of Ms. Christie's books that I've read were primarily written and set in the 1920s or 1930s and that is a MUCH different culture than what one finds in 1969.

All that being said, I loved this novel. I resented having to put it down after breaks or lunch and return to my appointed duties. I stole moments in between conversations with family in order to read just a few more paragraphs, because you see, I was desperate to learn if it ends the same way as it does in the miniseries, and actually, the book and the miniseries episode are remarkably similar. In all of the best ways, even down to my favorite character of Ariadne Oliver, crime fiction authoress and overall crazy lady.

There's an enchantment in Hallowe'en Party that really took some effort to achieve. Michael Garfield, Judith Butler, and her daughter Miranda are all elfin creatures in their own right, somehow otherworldly, and so it's thrilling for there to be a sunken garden in an old rock quarry that has been transformed into a place of beauty and old-world magic. I've visited Butchart Gardens in Canada, also designed out of an old rock quarry, and it is a sight to behold. The murder almost takes a backseat to that garden, but then, we are talking about a 13-year-old child murdered at a Hallowe'en party in 1969, a dreadful affair, and something no one should really like to think about. Even if the child was a braggart and a liar, she certainly did not deserve to die.

A few changes were made in the miniseries' episode that I think were unnecessary, like the "witch" being an uninvited outsider to the party whereas, in the novel, she was a planned part of the festivities and told fortunes to the children. The murdered child, also, did not have to be so overdone towards an embittered fat child in the episode whereas, in the novel, her weight is never mentioned. The children are never mentioned to wear costumes in the novel but are definitely in full modern Hallowe'en costuming frivolity in the episode. There's also the peculiar addition in the episode of adult children to one of the leading characters, a completely unnecessary addition, in my mind.

But if those are the only changes of any note that I can remember, then I must say that overall it's a job well done. The episode adaptation was brilliant (and that's saying a lot considering I'm not overly partial to Mark Gatiss), and the novel itself is an absolute must-read. I may end up re-reading it every year just as I rewatch the episode every year as soon as those pumpkins start appearing on front stoops and the breeze turns crisp. I love fall.