Hallowe'en Party

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Hallowe'en Party
Hallowe'en Party First Edition Cover 1969.jpg
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
Author Agatha Christie
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Crime novel
Publisher Collins Crime Club
Publication date
November 1969
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 256 (first edition, hardcover)
Preceded by By the Pricking of My Thumbs
Followed by Passenger to Frankfurt

Hallowe'en Party is a work of detective fiction by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in November 1969[1] and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year.[2][3] The UK edition retailed for twenty-five shillings.[1] In preparation for decimalisation on 15 February 1971, it was also priced on the dustjacket at £1.25. The US edition retailed at $5.95.[3]

The novel features Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and the mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver, who begins the novel in attendance at a Hallowe'en party. A girl at the party claims she witnessed a murder, which, at the time, she was too young to realize was a murder. Soon, the girl herself is found murdered, and Oliver calls in Poirot. This book was dedicated to P.G. Wodehouse.

A review at the time of publication and another 20 years later both felt this story was not one of Agatha Christie's best, "a disappointment", a novel littered with loose ends and unrealized characters.

Plot introduction[edit]

During the preparation of a Hallowe'en party in Woodleigh Common, thirteen-year-old Joyce Reynolds tells everyone, including Ariadne Oliver, that she saw a murder once, but only recently realised that it was a murder that she had seen. At the end of the party, Joyce is found drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. Mrs Oliver is visiting her friend Judith Butler, whose young daughter Miranda is too ill to attend the party. With Mrs Oliver's help, Poirot must unmask the real evil of the night.

Plot summary[edit]

Mrs Oliver seeks Hercule Poirot's help. She is shaken by this death. She relates Joyce's claim, and now wonders if Joyce might have been telling the truth, which would provide someone with a motive for murdering her. Poirot investigates. He finds no one who admits to believing Joyce's story. Her older sister Ann and younger brother Leopold consider that Joyce told stories to gain attention.

Retired superintendent Spence provides Poirot with a list of murders or disappearances in the last few years that Joyce might have witnessed. Mrs Llewellyn-Smythe, the aunt of Rowena Drake and her late husband, died about two years earlier. A codicil to her will was found to be forged, and her au pair, Olga Seminoff, disappeared soon after, raising questions never fully answered. Other candidate murders involve Charlotte Benfield, a sixteen-year-old shop assistant found dead of multiple head injuries, with two young men under suspicion; Lesley Ferrier, a lawyer's clerk who was stabbed in the back; and Janet White, a teacher at Elms School who was strangled.

At The Elms School, Poirot speaks first with the headmistress, Miss Emlyn, who sends in the mathematics teacher, Elizabeth Whittaker. While the party-goers were playing snapdragon, she saw Rowena Drake on the first floor landing. Rowena looked startled by what she saw in the open door of the library, and then dropped the glass flower vase she had filled with water. Other suggestive pieces of evidence include Lesley Ferrier's history as a forger. Many thought Lesley and Olga worked together to secure Mrs Llewellyn-Smythe's inheritance.

Poirot visits the lovely sunken garden built for Mrs Llewellyn-Smythe in an abandoned quarry by Michael Garfield. Poirot meets Garfield there, and then meets Miranda Butler. Mr Goby sends Poirot information about Olga. A one-time cleaner for Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe tells Mrs Oliver about the codicil she witnessed. Rowena Drake seeks Poirot to tell him that Leopold Reynolds, Joyce's younger brother, has been drowned. Mrs Drake, unusually upset by Leopold's death, admits that she saw Leopold in the library, which led her to think he knew who killed his sister. Poirot shares that the boy had been flush with money, which would soon be explained.

Poirot knows what happened, and fears more murders. He tells Miss Emlyn she correctly interpreted what Whittaker told her. The police dig up an abandoned well where they find a knife and the remains of Olga, who had been stabbed like Ferrier. Mrs Oliver takes Judith and Miranda Butler safely away from the village; when they stop for lunch, Miranda rides away with Michael Garfield, who takes her to a pagan sacrificial altar and is set to kill her. He is stopped by Nicholas Ransom and Desmond Holland, two young men trailing Miranda at Poirot's request. Garfield swallows the poison he had intended for Miranda. Miranda tells the police that she saw a murder, and told her close friend Joyce the story. Hidden in a tree watching wildlife, Miranda saw Michael Garfield and Rowena Drake carrying Olga's dead body in the sunken garden years earlier. Joyce made the story her own at the party; Miranda was not there to contradict her. Rowena Drake did believe Joyce's story and acted immediately to kill the witness. Rowena Drake broke the vase of flowers in front of Miss Whittaker as a pretext for being wet after having drowned Joyce. Subsequently, Leopold had used what he knew to blackmail Rowena Drake, leading to his murder.

Garfield played the role of lover to Olga to help Rowena Drake secure Mrs Llewellyn-Smythe's inheritance. The real codicil, written by Mrs Llewellyn-Smythe and leaving her fortune to Olga, had been replaced with a clumsy forgery, produced by Lesley Ferrier, to halt investigation for the real one, left in the pages of a large book. In earlier wills, Rowena Drake would inherit the bulk of the large estate. Lesley Ferrier and Olga Seminoff were murdered to conceal the deceit. Garfield's motivation was his narcissistic desire to construct another perfect garden with Mrs Drake's money on a Greek island that she has secretly purchased. Poirot muses that Rowena Drake might have met a similar fate to Olga as Garfield would have no use for her once he secured her money. Poirot intuits the link between Miranda and Garfield: Judith Butler is not a widow but a single mother, and, unknown to Miranda, Michael Garfield was her father. It was by chance Judith met him again in Woodleigh Common.

Questions left unanswered include whether Mr Drake's death was an accident, and if the police took Mrs Drake to trial.

Characters in Hallowe'en Party[edit]

  • Hercule Poirot, the renowned Belgian detective
  • Ariadne Oliver, a writer of detective novels and a friend of Poirot
  • George, Poirot's valet
  • Inspector Timothy Raglan, the investigating officer
  • Superintendent Spence, a retired police officer
  • Elspeth McKay, Superintendent Spence's sister
  • Alfred Richmond, Chief Constable
  • Joyce Reynolds, a thirteen-year-old girl who declared that she once saw a murder and is murdered herself shortly afterwards
  • Rowena Drake, owner of the house where the party took place, widow of Hugo (her husband and first cousin) who died shortly before their aunt died
  • Mrs Llewellyn-Smythe, wealthy widow and aunt of both Rowena and her late husband Hugo Drake, died about two years before the story begins
  • Olga Seminoff, au pair girl from Herzogovinia in service to Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe in her last years
  • Judith Butler, a friend of Mrs Oliver and mother of Miranda Butler
  • Miranda Butler, the attractive twelve-year-old daughter of Judith and best friend of Joyce Reynolds, both students at The Elms School
  • Leopold Reynolds, Joyce's younger brother
  • Ann Reynolds, Joyce's older sister
  • Mrs Reynolds, Joyce's mother
  • Michael Garfield, a landscape gardener and unusually beautiful man
  • Elizabeth Whittaker, mathematics teacher at The Elms school
  • Miss Emlyn, headmistress of The Elms school
  • Mrs Goodbody, a local cleaning woman who plays the role of a witch at the party
  • Nicholas Ransom, an eighteen-year-old at the party, part of the game where the girls see the faces of their future husbands
  • Desmond Holland, a sixteen-year-old at the party, part of the game where the girls see the faces of their future husbands
  • Dr Ferguson, a physician and police surgeon
  • Jeremy Fullerton, Mrs Llewellyn-Smythe's solicitor
  • Leslie Ferrier, Jeremy Fullerton's clerk
  • Harriet Leaman, former cleaner for Mrs Llewellyn-Smythe
  • Janet White, a recently deceased teacher, who is on Poirot's list of recent deaths


The novel is dedicated: "To P. G. Wodehouse — whose books and stories have brightened my life for many years. Also, to show my pleasure in his having been kind enough to tell me he enjoyed my books."

Literary significance and reception[edit]

Robert Weaver in the Toronto Daily Star of 13 December 1969 said, "Hallowe'en Party...is a disappointment, but with all her accomplishments Miss Christie can be forgiven some disappointments...Poirot seems weary and so does the book."[4]

Robert Barnard: "Bobbing for apples turns serious when ghastly child is extinguished in the bucket. The plot of this late one is not too bad, but the telling is very poor: it is littered with loose ends, unrealised characters, and maintains only a marginal hold on the reader's interest. Much of it reads as if spoken into a tape-recorder and never read through afterward."[5]

References and Allusions[edit]

References to other works[edit]

  • Superintendent Spence brought to Poirot the case solved in Mrs McGinty's Dead and which they discuss in Chapter 5. The case is also recollected by Poirot in Chapter 3, when Poirot recalls Mrs. Oliver getting out of a car and "a bag of apples breaking". This is a reference to her second appearance in Mrs McGinty's Dead, Chapter 10.
  • Miss Emlyn mentions in Chapter 10 that she knows of Poirot from Miss Bulstrode, who previously appeared as a character in Cat Among the Pigeons.
  • A letter was sent to Hercule Poirot from Mr Goby, who appeared in The Mystery of the Blue Train, After the Funeral, and Third Girl.
  • Mrs Rowena Drake is compared to Lady Macbeth by Poirot, while Michael Garfield titles his sketch of Miranda as Iphigenia, reflecting his plan.
  • Mrs Goodbody, a rich source of local insight, uses a well-known children's rhyme to express her view of the likely fate of Olga, when Poirot asks her in Chapter 16: Ding dong dell, pussy's in the well.

References to actual history, geography and current science[edit]

  • The first half of the novel contains several discussions in which anxiety is voiced about the Criminal Justice System in Great Britain. This in part reflects the abolition in 1965 of capital punishment for murder.
  • The novel reflects in many respects its time of publication at the end of the permissive 1960s, but nowhere more so than when a character uses the word "lesbian" in Chapter 15.[6][7]
  • Mrs Llewellyn-Smythe placed her codicil in a book titled Enquire Within upon Everything, a real book of domestic tips published from 1856 to 1994.



Hallowe'en Party was adapted for radio by BBC Radio 4, featuring John Moffatt as Hercule Poirot, with Stephanie Cole as Ariadne Oliver.[citation needed]


The novel was adapted as part of the twelfth series of Agatha Christie's Poirot with David Suchet, with Zoë Wanamaker reprising her role as Ariadne Oliver. Guest stars include Deborah Findlay as Rowena Drake, Julian Rhind-Tutt as Michael Garfield, Amelia Bullmore as Judith Butler, and Fenella Woolgar as Elizabeth Whittaker. Charles Palmer (who also directed The Clocks for the series) directs this instalment, with the screenplay written by Mark Gatiss (who wrote the screenplay for Cat Among the Pigeons; he also appeared as a guest star in the adaptation of Appointment with Death).

The television adaptation shifted the late 1960s setting to the 1930s, as with nearly all shows in this series. Other specific changes include:

  • Omitted from the adaptation are the characters of Ann Reynolds, Superintendent Spence, Alfred Richmond, Elspeth McKay, Miss Emlyn, Harriet Leaman, Dr Ferguson, Mr Goby, Nicholas Ransom, and Desmond Holland, along with the location of The Elms School, and the investigation into Charlotte Benfield's death.
  • Reverend Mr Cottrell and Frances and Edmund Drake are new characters to the story – Cottrell ran a program that supplied au pairs, including Olga, which went downhill when Olga disappeared; Frances and Edmund are Rowena's children, with Frances having been involved in a relationship with Lesley Ferrier
  • The garden in the novel is changed from being built in an abandoned quarry, to being a part of the estate owned by Rowena.
  • Mrs Goodbody is more involved in the story – she is consulted by Poirot over deaths that happened over the past few years, that could have been murders witnessed by Joyce.
  • Certain events and clues were changed – Joyce's appropriation of stories is revealed by Cottrell; Mrs Oliver witnesses Rowena purposely dropping the vase of water near the library; Oliver is bedridden for most of the case following the party, until the end; the fake codicil is revealed by Mr Fullerton, while the real one is found in a picture frame in Lesley's possession; Leopold's body is found by Elizabeth Whittaker, and the scene visited by Poirot; Rowena comes to Poirot twice, before and after Leopold's murder, to give false reasons for her dropping the vase and where he was during the party.
  • Janet White's first name is changed to Beatrice, and her death was a result of suicide by drowning, due to personal issues–-she could not deal with people commenting about her sexuality, and so decided to end it all, leaving a note to Whittaker, who had loved her. Whittaker hid the note to prevent Janet being given an unconsecrated grave.
  • A major number of changes were made for the final scene, including the denouement:
    • Judith and Miranda are not taken away by Poirot, but Miranda sneaks out of her mother's home to meet Garfield.
    • Garfield is caught by the police while trying to kill Miranda in a pagan fashion at the garden, and does not kill himself with poison.
    • Olga's body is found after the arrest of Garfield and Rowena. There is no well or knife found with it. The motive for her murder was modified – Garfield was not her lover, whilst Rowena was confronted about the codicil, as Olga knew she must have had it switched for a fake one and knew she was having an affair with Garfield. Her body was buried by Garfield only, witnessed by Miranda who was visiting the garden at the time of Olga's murder.
    • The death of Rowena's husband is explained in the adaptation as being murder, committed by Garfield for Rowena and blamed on young tearaways.
    • Rowena learns from Garfield the truth, in that he was only interested in the money and making a new garden, never loving her, and thus quickly hates him as a result.

Graphic novel[edit]

Hallowe-en Party was released by HarperCollins as a graphic novel adaptation on 3 November 2008, adapted and illustrated by "Chandre" (ISBN 0-00-728054-8).

Publication history[edit]

  • 1969, Collins Crime Club (London), November 1969, Hardback, 256 pp
  • 1969, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1969, Hardback, 248 pp
  • 1970, Pocket Books (New York), Paperback, 185 pp
  • 1972, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 189 pp
  • 1987, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, ISBN 0-7089-1666-X
  • 2009, HarperCollins; Facsimile edition, Hardcover: 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-00-731462-1

The novel was first serialised in the weekly magazine Woman's Own in seven abridged instalments from 15 November to 27 December 1969, illustrated with uncredited photographic montages.

In the US, the novel appeared in the December 1969 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.


  1. ^ a b Chris Peers, Ralph Spurrier and Jamie Sturgeon. Collins Crime Club – A checklist of First Editions. Dragonby Press (Second Edition) March 1999 (p. 15)
  2. ^ John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction – the collector's guide: Second Edition (pp. 82, 87) Scholar Press. 1994. ISBN 0-85967-991-8
  3. ^ a b American Tribute to Agatha Christie
  4. ^ Toronto Daily Star, 13 December 1969 (p. 58)
  5. ^ Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (p. 194). Fontana Books, 1990. ISBN 0-00-637474-3
  6. ^ Bunson, Matthew (2000). The Complete Christie: An Agatha Christie Encyclopedia. Simon & Schuster. p. 69. ISBN 978-0671028312. 
  7. ^ Lee, Amy (7 February 2003). Agatha Christie: Hallowe'en Party. The Literary Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 13, 2017. 

External links[edit]