Many young people look at old books (that are 50+ years old) with a rather negative view; their old-fashioned themes and plots seem very inaccessible to many and so we are put off slightly. Although I hate to admit it, I am sometimes guilty of this. However, there is one author that I can truly say, without a doubt in my mind, that defies this. This is author is the queen of crime herself: Agatha Christie. One particular book that I had in mind is Hallowe’en Party, first published in 1969. The reason this is such a good novel, and the most read one on my bookcase, is because it’s a perfect blend of dark humour, the macabre murders of a serial killer and the unpredictable plot that she creates.
The scene is set with Christie’s favourite recurring character, the writer Ariadne Oliver, whom has agreed, against her will, to chaperone a children’s Hallowe’en party. During the tedious preparations, the talk turns to Oliver’s infamous murder mystery novels and Joyce – ‘a hostile thirteen year old’ – boasts that she had once witnessed a murder. As we all know, from experience, no one believes the wild fantasies of one so young and eager to fit in. However, suspicions are later aroused when Joyce is murdered after being drowned in an apple-bobbing barrel – oh, the tragic irony. Oliver calls in our old friend Hercule Poirot to investigate.
What makes this book such a page turner is that Christie doesn’t waffle. She follows the plot and investigation in a factual manner and so effectively allows the reader to become the detective. I speak from experience when I say that, even though it is fictional, there is no better feeling than solving a mystery, especially Christie’s. It’s not like modern day crime fiction, where the author has to walk the reader through each clue to bring you to their conclusion. Christie leaves it to your imagination, to form your own opinion from the facts she has presented. Her books usually end in a twist *spoiler alert* like this one, which are very unexpected, and often very weird.
If you are a newcomer to the work of the queen of crime, then I do suggest you begin with this book. Hallowe’en Party is the epitome of 20th century crime novels and one of her finest and thought provoking works; worth the read!
Words by Joe Lewin