Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reading in Retrospect: "Hallowe'en Party" by Agatha Christie

This is your average Agatha Christie book. That’s a good thing, of course. In my mind, Christie is the ultimate mystery writer. I weigh all mystery novels against hers, and most suffer by comparison.

I have read this one enough times that I can actually remember who done it. (Most of Christie’s books surprise me every time I read them. You know. That literary amnesia thing again.) Of course there were a lot of details that I did not remember, so I still enjoyed the read.

In this book, Hercules Poirot is called in by his author friend Ariadne Oliver, who has been visiting in the town of Woodleigh Common. Just the night before, Ms. Oliver had attended a children’s Halloween party during which one of the young guests, a girl by the name of Joyce Reynolds, was drowned in an apple-bobbing bucket. The thing that stuck in Ms. Oliver’s mind was the fact that, earlier during the evening of the party, Joyce--a girl given to telling tall tales and generally known as a liar--had been trying to convince the others present that she had once witnessed a murder. Unfortunately for Joyce, the wrong person overheard her claims.

This isn't my absolute favorite Agatha Christie book (I'd say that slot is claimed by And Then There Were None), but I don't think I've ever read a mystery of hers that I didn't like, and this one was no exception.

Here is what I love about Agatha Christie. Her stories are always so logical. Even if the murderer is slightly insane, it's in such a neat, restrained, British way. There's very little gore, and hardly anyone ever gets hacked to pieces. Many of the deaths occur by a nice, civilized poisoning, or at worst an efficient coshing or a single, well-thought-out gunshot. Poirot and Miss Marple are my heroes, with their amazingly astute observations and keen understanding of human nature. And somehow Christie manages to get me suspecting almost every single character in the story at one point or another. See? Perfection.

Happy Halloween! Don't keep your head in the apple-bobbing bucket overlong. 


Kristi said...

I don't remember ever reading an Agatha Christie book. How embarrassing! I'll have to rectify that. Maybe I'll start with your favorite. Great review!

Becky (Page Turners) said...

No one beats Agatha CHristie for a great novelk. I just finished reading The Big Four which I hadn't read before and it was so compelling.

I am the same as you, most of the time if I leave enough time between reads and I can re read her books over and over again and very rarely will i remember who did it. I can remember the outcome of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, but other than that its like reading them again each time

Anonymous said...

It's been a long time since I read this Christie book. I should pick it up again. I do reread these mysteries and it doesn't even matter to me if I remember whodunit. They are comfort books and so nicely put together.

Kate said...

I've also never read an Agatha Christie book! Another one for the TBR list...

I love how you call poisoning civilized... :)

Happy Halloween!

Stephanie said...

I am loving what you said about her villains being insane in a "neat, restrained British way." :-)

brideofthebookgod said...

Well, a dramatisation of this was on TV here earlier this week but I haven't watched it yet (but the night is yet young); will let you know if it's any good, though David Suchet is always fab.

My favourite Christie is Nemesis.

She said...

I think my thoughts on this one were much like yours. Not my favorite Christie, but that's not a bad thing because she is generally wonderful no matter what. :p

Kathy said...

Kristi--I am just silly with glee to think you might read And Then There Were None. It's the best!! If you can't find that title, it's also been published as Ten Little Indians.

Becky--I don't think I've heard of The Big Four! I'll have to look for that one. It's funny which ones we remember--I know I've read The Mysterious Affair at Styles but I can't recall the plot.

Kay--I agree--I always enjoy Christie's books even when I can remember the plot!

Kate--Hope you're enjoying your almost-favorite holiday! :) Oh, please do read some Christie, I think you will love her.

Stephanie--thanks--although when I write something like that I always second-guess myself later and worry that Brits will think that was an insult. It was actually a compliment. ;)

Bride--I'm sure I've read Nemesis but I can't remember the plot of that one either. I haven't seen any newer Christie screen adaptations--maybe four older movies though. Do you prefer reading or watching her stories? I think I prefer the books.

She--I know! I can't think of a single book of hers that I've read and haven't liked. Which is your favorite?

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I think I feel left out! I really don't think I've actually read any Christie books -- I've only seen the productions on stage or on BBC. If I read anything by her, I can't recall, and it would have been years ago. Where have I been!

Lesa said...

I haven't read one either! I don't read many mysteries-- I watch them more than read them. I know I've seen some of the movie versions on PBS but don't know which ones.

Jim and I have always been into BBC shows and lately he has become addicted to several britmystery series-- I've watched a few and they are good. If you ever want to check any out on Netflix, Let me know-- I tell you the titles.

Did we talk about this before? I know I talked to someone about britmysteries.

Kristi said...

I just put And Then There Were None on reserve at my library. Hopefully it will come soon. I'm excited to read it!

Frl. Irene Palfy said...


You asked me on my bookblog ( if I have read any thing else by Maggie O'Farrell: No, not yet. But I'll sure do! :")

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment!

Frl. Irene Palfy said...

Oh - and by the way: I love Agatha Christie's books! :")

Kathy said...

Natalie--I don't know where you've been, either, but I know where you need to go. ;) Sounds like you need a good dose of Agatha stat!!

Lesa--you too!! And, you have finally proven DeLynne wrong: you haven't read everything. ;)

Kristi--Yay!! I can't wait to hear what you think of it.

Irene--I'm so glad you already know and love Christie. She's the best! :)

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Okay, now I'm back in it and I don't feel left out! I just read and reviewed And Then There Were None -- and it was fun!

Kathy said...

So glad (though not surprised!) that you enjoyed it. And that non-fiction account of those mysterious eleven days sounds really intriguing!!