Bridgette Redman's Reviews > Hallowe'en Party

Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie
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's review
Feb 01, 2012

did not like it
Read in January, 2000

I am a big fan of Agatha Christie. I love her writing and have read piles and piles of her books.

So I feel a bit queasy when my first review of one of her books is panning it.

But I can’t recommend this book to anyone—especially not to anyone who hasn’t read Agatha Christie before. You might get the impression that she is a hack, formulaic writer with cardboard characters who all spout the same dialog. You might read this book and think that Agatha Christie writes mysteries with predictable plots and too large of a social agenda.

You would be right if you based your judgement solely on this novel. In fact, there is a part of me that desperately wants to believe that this book is a forgery. Perhaps Christie decided to loan her irascible detective Hercule Poirot and the self-parodying Ariadne Oliver out to another author, an apprentice perhaps. That might explain the travesty that is this novel.

Yet, I look at the date of this novel—1969—and realize that perhaps one of my favorite mystery authors was simply getting tired of her characters and writing to meet a deadline. Perhaps she had used up all of her suspenseful endings and gripping characterizations. Granted, Curtain--a novel that ranks with her best works—was still to come, but I think this novel was part of the reason she was so ready to give Poirot his send-off.

The book begins slowly, pouring all sorts of irrelevant details and descriptions over us as if Christie hadn’t yet decided in which direction she was going to take the novel and what information would end up being useful. Even when the murder takes place—the murder of a 13-year-old girl at a Hallowe’en party—there isn’t a lot of drama.

The book gets worse as we have to listen to each and every character spew forth the popular drivel about criminals not being responsible for their actions and that the murder must have been committed by an insane person let out too early from a mental institution due to overcrowding. It wouldn’t have been so bad if only two or three people had proposed this as a solution, but to have every person interviewed jump on this bandwagon and speak almost identical dialog made for a boring read. Indeed, the only diversity in opinion came from Poirot himself, who maintained that this was a murder with a motive.

As the readers, we have no doubt. Dame Agatha does not write murders without motives. So it would have been nice if at least a few of the characters Poirot interviewed could have had a distinct voice.

I was also disappointed because typically Christie is able to produce an ending that is both surprising and memorable. In this novel, I was able to figure out who the murderer was when Poirot was first given a list of past murders. There was one slight twist at the end, but it was neither surprising nor interesting.

The ending of the book was nothing but painful. Christie labored at building suspense using all sorts of techniques to the point where the techniques got in the way and the reading was simply wearisome. She holds off on revealing who-dun-it until long after the reader has any doubts, making the denouement simply a relief that the book was almost over, rather than a delightful surprise.

Agatha Christie writes wonderful mysteries. I encourage anyone to read them. But don’t read this book. Try instead one of these novels:

Witness for the Prosecution
The Mousetrap
And Then There Were None
Death on the Nile
The ABC Murders
Murder on the Orient Express
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side

All of those books are immensely satisfying and are wonderful examples of Christie’s craft. I may even go re-read some of those to get the taste of Hallowe’en Party out of my mouth.
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03/20/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Petercsm730 (new)

Petercsm730 I agree that her last couple of Poirot books are a bit lacking. Curtain is fantastic but she wrote it almost 40 years prior.

Akash totally right, elephants can remember is badder

Dawn This is one of my favorites, perfect for Halloween.

Aleksandar Maksimović I do not agree with you, I found it fantastic.

message 5: by Alice (new)

Alice Esguerra Sad Cypress and Five Little Pigs are among her best Poirot cases...

Lisa Shafer I've read about 15 of her books now, and I agree with you that this is the worst. Ugh.
I loved Seven Dials and really liked Sleeping Murder and Mrs. McGinty's Dead. But not this one.

message 7: by Shannon (new) - added it

Shannon O'Donnell This book was my first Agatha Christie, and I was kind of disappointed. Then I read this review and an article that suggested that Agatha Christie didn't like Poirot towards the end. I will give Agatha Christie another chance. If there are any suggestions, I will take them!

Rebecca I completely agree! Normally I have an idea of who I think it is and I'm wrong. I was disappointed that I was able to figure it out so quickly.

Erin Great review, and my thoughts exactly.

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

This is my first exposure to her writing and you are 100% correct. I am about a third thru and wondering how she became so popular. It's like I'm reading the debut novel of an adult who has spent their life sheltered by money.

It's left me wondering, honestly. But your review succinctly explains it. Thank you.

message 11: by Amy (new) - rated it 1 star

Amy Vannice This is my first Agatha Christie novel and you are actually right - that's exactly the impression that I had! I guess I have to read any of her earlier novels next :) Thanks for the review!

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