It had been one of my greatest regrets that in spite of being a fan of mysteries, I had never read the works of Agatha Christie. I was exploring the books written by her, and was about to begin the first Hercule Poirot book ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles‘, when another title caught my eye. It was ‘Hallowe’en Party‘, the 41st Poirot mystery.
It is the season of Halloween, and the blurb had grabbed my attention. I knew I wasn’t going to be formally introduced to Hercule Poirot in this book. It would be a sudden encounter and I’d have to form my ideas about the famous detective as I progressed. I was quite excited.
The story begins at the house of a certain Mrs. Drake, who has arranged a Halloween party for children and teenagers at her house in the village of Woodleigh Common. Along with many others, mystery author Ariadne Oliver and her friend Judith Butler have been invited to the party. The preparations are in full swing, when Joyce, a boastful 13-year-old girl declares that she had seen a murder a few years ago and has kept it a secret. Nobody believes her and she becomes a laughing stock.
A few hours later, after the end of the party, Joyce is found murdered, with her head submerged in a bucket of water which had been used for a bobbing-for-apple contest earlier in the evening.
After the incident, Mrs. Oliver reaches out to her friend, the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to solve the mystery of the murder.
Poirot visits Woodleigh Common and meets people of varied characters. He dives deep into the analysis of past incidents in the village. Unmasking the truth is not easy, as he has to wade through the layers of secrets and deception.
It is difficult to identify which of the characters are speaking the truth and which of them are lying, and therefore it piqued my interest. A few conversations are quite repetitive and take roundabout ways to reach an end. Probably those are meant to be repeated to emphasize that if any of the characters modifies or changes statements on the same subject matter, the reader can get a clue that the character is trying to hide something.
I liked Hercule Poirot a lot. He is a middle aged, wise and experienced detective. He likes to stay neat, fashionable and takes pride in his own moustache. He often speaks French and quotes songs. I am definitely going to start reading from the first of the Poirot books to know more about his adventures.
Ariadne Oliver won my heart. Her affinity towards apples changed immediately into hatred after the death of Joyce, and she switched to eating dates. Her opinions on accommodating guests in her house, and the way she forms a story after observing a random person while travelling were quite amusing to read.
There are other unconventional characters. Leopold, Joyce’s brother and a boy of ten, is too clever for his age. Miranda is unlike the girls of her age. She enjoys watching squirrels and birds and spending her time in the Quarry garden. Michael, for his devotion to beauty, reminds me a bit of Dorian Gray.
The web of mystery has been craftily knitted by the author. The climax is thrilling, and artistically so. Everything falls into place as you complete the book. None of your questions remain unanswered.
Hallowe’en Party is a gorgeous book. My expectations as a reader were satisfied after finishing it. The book has opened the door to a new set of unparalleled mystery writings for me.