"Fixing" HALLOWE'EN PARTY

JRFJRF Ontario, Canada Investigator
Spoiler Alert! This discussion contains revealing detailing about Hallowe'en Party. 

While I have read all of Agatha Christie books, there are a select number that I love to re-read. A Murder is Announced, Murder is Easy, Funerals are Fatal - these, among others, hold a special place in my affections. Perfect mysteries. Perfect characterizations. Perfect murders. Perfect motives. Perfect resolutions. 

An anomaly among my list of favourites has always been Hallowe'en Party, a later Agatha Christie title that almost never figures as a fan favourite. And i can see why -- you have an out-of-left field resolution, repetitive dialogue, muddled characterizations, an over reliance on co-incidence and plot holes you could drive a truck through. Cases in point:
* A resolution that fingers two characters who don't have even one interaction in the story
* A never-ending barrage of characters sounding off about England deinstitutionalizing mental patients
* A lazy plot contrivance about a forged will, without any real sense as to why
* A murder in retrospective plot with lots of murder potentials (a school teacher, a legal clerk) but one that ignores the most obvious (man with polio struck by a car)
* A confusing timeline (did the aunt die before or after the man with polio was struck by a car?)
* A poor depiction of mothers (Joyce's and Miranda's)

Despite its flaws, I love Hallowe'en Party.  I love the Hallowe'en theme. I love Ariadne Oliver in the book. I love the concept (boastful child says she has witnessed a murder and then is murdered herself). I love the garden. I love Hercule's description of Michael when he first meets him in the garden. I love Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe (though she doesn't even appear in the book).  I love half of the murder resolution (the one involving a vase).

It seems likely to me that as one of her later book, Ms. Christie tripped up in executing what I think could have been one of her best. In the hopes that I don't raise the wrath of her fans, part of me wishes that it could be possible to go in to "fix" some of the elements of the novel that make it less than perfect. This is what I would fix:
* the confusing time-line
* I would have the two murderers meet
* I would rejig the character of Miranda's mother and her relationship to Michael

Would others like to see a "fixed" Hallowe'en Party?




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Comments

  • I think I would like it. You are absolutely right about the flaws, and yet there is a fascination in the book that makes me read it again every once in a while - and again and again I am frustrated at the flaws. However, I think the new book should be new - that is, a book inspired by "Halloween", with permission from the owners, but with a different name and different character names.However, I'm not sure another author would be able to catch the unearthly charm of Michael, Miranda and the garden.

    I may have mentioned this before: Ellis Peters' book "Flight of a Witch" has many similar elements SPOILER- the enchanting, unearthly young girl, the magic but uncanny place that turns out to be tragic, the older lover who becomes deadly, the last minute rescue of the girl by 2 young boys/men. You might like to read it. 
  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom ✭✭✭✭
    JRF, you are right in all your points about Halloween Party but I have never thought of them before, I have just put up with the book because I suppose I don't dislike the Book enough to notice also, not everything in Christie Books is explained so I suppose it can't have been odd to me that the Villains had never apparently met but just because it is never spelt out it doesn't mean they hadn't after all SPOILER ALERT there is a Child without a Father so the possibility that the Villains met is there isn't it?
  • tudestudes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil ✭✭✭✭
    I guess you're right about the flaws, @JRF. As you mentioned (about not figuring at almost any list of fans favorites), it's not one of my favorites, although I like this book more nowadays than when I first read it a long time ago. And the reason is exactly as you said ("a resolution that fingers two characters who don't even have one interaction in the story"), but I love Poirot and Ariadne working together, the theme (Hallowe'en Party). Certainly, this book could be better. Despite of the flaws and not one of my favorites, I like this book the way it is. Probably, if it was fixed it would be another book.
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    I think it needs a rewrite, or, more to the point, changes to be made for a screen adaptation. As I've mentioned before, the SPOILER ALERT vase and somebody needing to get wet is excellent. The whole scene with the party, the exits, and who could have had access - great. The boasting girl - that one again: see Dead Mans Folly, is ok. Weird how the siblings are so dispassionate about the SPOILER A death: hardly a tear, and critisizing dead sis. A bit likea Jerry at the end of Moving Finger - dispassionately appraising the deaths and deciding it isn't the end of the world, as they weren't nice people. The action around the forged will in Halloween could have been well-managed if better integrated. Retrospective investigations of murders never satisfying. Idea of au pere seeming convincing is good. Often we can just tell if somebody Is being truthful, and she is, and it shows. For me, AC is not showing a proper understanding of Michael. He is a characature of the 60s or 70s young hippy creative, pagan, middle class, aesthetic. He is unconvincing. Good looking people don't like beautiful things just because they are beautiful themselves. I would have more of the headteacher speaking, giving insights. More of the young men who help at the end. I,d screen more of the boastful girl and the one who actually saw the murder together in the garden, exploring, giving viewer a feel for how it could all have happened.
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    Apologies, my previous post rather poorly laid out since writing it on an ipad.

    Steered by your formidable analysis, JRF, I think that the key, for me, would be to focus on the village, the SPOILER ALERT and interconnect the characters and locations. We are now going to have teenage amateur sleuths central to the action. There should be more involvement, eg more scenes involving, the headteacher, who has sharp insight, shrewd judgement of character (eg, in appraising the you teenage boys who Poirot trusts to help)  and in this sense, is not dissimilar to Miss Marple. She is going to speak to the boys and warn them from time to time. The will plot would need to be simplified. Perhaps, the man with polio would have to be the one murdered and buried. The gardens could have belonged to him and his wife, the female murderer.  Perhaps, forget the will, and the old lady. Michael would become a greedy, good looking Lawrence Redding type who likes garden design, and sees that the female murderer will do anything for him. Forget the sacrifice scene involving Miranda, at the end. Instead, Michael realises his female accomplice is out of control with her obsession with him, and becomes nervous that she seems to suspect that he and Miranda's mum have a history, and seems jealous. There will be the odd scene of Michael and Miranda's mum talking - but we the audience won't know their past until later in the drama.

    Changes to the plot would be needed to place the action in one setting and to gain an holistic feel, as you get in Evil Under the Sun, Murder at the Vicarage and Murder on the Orient Express. A good director might change the big early-on event to an afternoon treasure hunt in the wooded garden which would be next door to the female murderer's house, or even a part of it. (which would be more of a small estate) followed by an evening Halloween Party, and maybe, for the older teenagers, a trip into the wooded gardens to see their future spouse at midnight (traditionally, this custom is done, of course, in the open, not a house.) That way you get a link with the gardens and a delightful chance for the audience to sense the mystery of the garden as it is linked to Halloween., We need justification for how the female murderer might have seen, watched and become attracted to Michael who is next door in the garden - or, alternatively working for her, if she owns the gardens. 

    The female murderer has a small estate - 10 acres with woodland, maybe the garden is hers, and those two teenage boys do work experience in it for her. We, the audience, see the boys noticing things. One of them is a boyfriend of Miranda. Joyce would be earning pocket money taking female murderer's dogs (great danes) for a walk. The dogs are naughty, and often bound off into Michael's magical garden next door. That way, there would be opportunity to have Joyce having to go into the gardens with the teenage boys to help her. She would, of course, fancy the other boy, and be boasting to him about all the adult things she has seen, as the lads clear the woodland as work experience right next door to the garden. The boasting would be part of the tv drama, and a bit subtle, like, "I can't tell you what I've seen, but it involves what you see in the movies, and it might have something to do with where we are now.'. Michael would become narked, and want the teenagers out of the gardens.( Because they don't want to get bumped off, even stupid 11 year olds, don't go around saying to EVERYBODY, eg, not just people they fancy on the quiet that they have seen a murder being committed.) The female murderer would overhear the boasting whilst she is inspecting her boundary fencing with the handyman.

    Joyce and Miranda would have to be 16. There would have to be a reason for them being friends.I suppose it would be easiest to fall back on the Girl Guides idea used in Dead Man's Folly. They are friends through the guides which Miranda's mum runs.  Miranda's mother is a posh, lady-interior designer, and she is making all the fabrics for female murderers rooms. Female murderer has a sudden yen to completely change around her decor, and to change herself her hair, etc to be rather more natural and crafty. Miranda's mother is a bit ethereal and hippyish, but in a very upper middle class way. Female murderer wants to grab some of her style, and in a curious, uncanny, sort of second sight way, as some sociopaths have, she divines a kind of synch between Miranda's mum and Michael, - she sort of feels she needs to be more like Miranda's  mum to hold on to Michael's interest. Miranda's mum and female murderer are also involved in amateur dramatics, and are becoming fascinated by medieval plays, listen to a lot of high-brow British folk music as well as classical, and want to perform some. The whole late 1960s vibe is affecting them in a Chelsea type of way.  There comes a point when female murderer starts to suspect that Michael and Miranda's mum have a history - and Miranda is so like him. It makes her behave strangely to Miranda. Michael has his eye on the female murderer's estate, and all the resources she can put at his disposal. 

    The problem for the original plot is the presence of Miranda and her mother in the village, and their relationship to Michael not being suspected by anyone. If the female murderer is seen growing suspicious of  Miranda, and her mother, and checking up on them, and asking sharp penetrating questions, a clever director could make it look like the female murderer is a nice person, and is on to the right track, and Miranda or her mother are likely candidates to have killed SPOILER ALERT Joyce. A director would have to play the female murderer as open, likable and engaging, and Miranda's mum as a bit withdrawn, distant, other-wordly and to be suspected. Miranda would need to be a bit goth, and have an odd interest in pagan ceremonies.

    In may ways, I believe the female murderer would be of the type of Anne Protheroe in Murder at the Vicarage. 'A Quaker type' as Grisleda says: calm and controlled, but passionate and un-stoppable once moved. The female murderer in Halloween Party is convincingly drawn. Michelle Collins from Eastenders and Corrie ( a phenomenal actress, could do her well) or Niamh Cussock. Like Anne Protheroe, her attachment to her lover would be irrational and making her capable of doing anything.
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    Michael would be caught whilst trying to bump off his accomplice who is becoming hysterically jealous.
  • JRFJRF Ontario, Canada Investigator
    Griselda - I love all your great fixing ideas!

  • Tommy_A_JonesTommy_A_Jones Gloucestershire, United Kingdom ✭✭✭✭
    The Only Adaptations that should be re-made are Cards On The Table to make it more like the Book and Appointment With Death as The Abuse should be Emotional not Physical and The Big Four and The Labours of Hercules in each case we should have Hour Long Adaptations, The Only Book I would re-write is Murder In Mesopotamia and I would put Hastings in it and make it In my view Readable.
  • GriseldaGriselda ✭✭✭✭
    Thank you JRF!
  • joe.petrizzo.7joe.petrizzo.7 Investigator
    I agree with some of your fixings Griselda.  I particularly like the way it was adapted for the television series.  One area where I disagree is with the vase.  I thought it was a little obvious because it kept being mentioned so it had to have some significance.  There was nothing wrong with that device and it was quite clever but it wasn't executed the best way.  Maybe if other guests were also inexplicably wet, it would have worked better in my opinion. 
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