I read Hallowe’en Party because of the Kenneth Branagh’s movie, A Haunting in Venice, which my research had identified as this novel the source. I have my doubts because the novel is set outside of London, rather than in Venice, it involves the killing of a thirteen-year-old girl, whereas the movie seems to people by adults, and the movie is supernatural, whereas the novel is not. In the movie, which I have not seen because they have not released yet it, Branagh resumes his role as Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective. He has a unique interpretation of the detective, some would say controversial, making him a man of action rather than one of pure intellect to solve crimes. Many readers hate that about him, but I blame the current film industry, for its reliance on gunfights, fistfights, and chase scenes. Branagh is just a product of this mentality. But I am not writing a film review, just telling you the reason I read Hallowe’en Party.
At a Hallowe’en party, when they were preparing for it, Joyce calmed to have seen a murder. No one took her seriously until they discovered her dead, drowned in the bucket they set up for dunking for apples. An adult guest, Ariadne Oliver, told Hercule Poirot about the crime, and intrigued by previous murder, believing it is how Joyce’s murder would be solved, he undertook the case.
This is a fun book but not a great book. Published in 1969, only 6 years prior to Christie’s own death, it is, I imagine, when Christie ran out of ideas. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad I read it; it provided me with distraction and entertainment. It puzzled me to the end, which is the job of a mystery. (I was convinced the murderer was…oh no, I not going to tell who wasn’t the murderer because that would reveal too much of the story…suffice to say, I guessed wrong.) But end of the day, it’s a genre work, as most mysteries are, but I have not found true about Christie’s other works.
I guess that depends on what I mean by “genre.” Everything written, at least everything creative, has a genre (mystery, romance, science fiction, literary, etc.), so labeling something as belong to a genre is not an insult. I simply mean that I will never read it again. It has solved the crime. I can shelve the book and move on to another. It is unforgivable, perhaps the harshest review I’ve given a book to date, but it’s how I feel.
Agatha Christie was a favorite author of my father, but I haven’t read many books of hers, perhaps in a rebellion against him, but also because I don’t read many mysteries. But Christie deserved the praise she received. Born on September 15, 1890, she lived 85 years, meeting her end on January 12, 1976. She wrote 66 detective novels and 15 collections of short stories. Many of her novels involved Hercule Poirot, but, like Sir Arthur Canon Doyle before her, she became disgusted with her detective, and branched out with other detectives, like Miss Marple. She was also a playwright, but I don’t know much about them. She earned many honors in her life, including Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Being an American, I don’t know what that is, but it seems like a royal appointment.
“I did see a murder,” said Joyce. “I did. I did. I did.”
Update: After Seeing the Movie A Haunting in Venice
I wrote this review before seeing the movie, but I have seen it since and I thought to share my opinion about it. It is a travesty! They changed everything about the story: setting, characters, the crime, and its solution. I would call it an adaption in name only, but they even changed the name. What were Branagh and the others involved with this production thinking?
I first encountered Kenneth Branagh in 1989 or 1990 with his version of Henry V. The film was excellent, and it’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of both him and Shakespeare. I don’t think about Shakespeare without thinking of Branagh soon after. He has produced, directed, and starred in several Shakespearian films, including Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing. I learned to trust him and his film adaptions, so his participation in this travesty feels like a betrayal.
The people who like this movie, I suspect, would be those who haven’t read the book. Maybe that is who they wanted to reach, but I feared they alienating fans of Agatha Christie in the process. You can’t call it an Agatha Christie mystery, since there was no Christie in the work. Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, the other Christie novels Branagh adapted, at least stayed true to their plots, but this novel strayed away from the plot so far that it is more appropriate called a Michael Green (the screenwriter) mystery.
Hallowe’en Party is a good book, but other novels, written by Christie, are better. It is entertaining but not much else.