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Literature / Hallowe'en Party

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Hallowe'en Party is a murder mystery novel by Agatha Christie, featuring detective Hercule Poirot. It was first published in 1969.

Hercule Poirot is called in by his novelist friend Ariadne Oliver who attended a Hallowe'en party at the home of Rowena Drake in Woodleigh Common, at which 13-year-old Joyce Reynolds has been drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. Joyce had earlier told everyone that she had witnessed a murder but didn't recognise it as a murder until a year later. Investigating the murder, Poirot compiles a list of recent deaths and missing persons in the area. Rowena's aunt had died, and shortly afterward, a codicil in her will favoring her au pair girl Olga Seminoff was found to be a forgery, after which Olga had disappeared. Other recent murder victims included a shop assistant, a schoolteacher and a lawyer's clerk. Ariadne's friend Judith has a daughter Miranda, who was Joyce's closest friend, and may be able to shed light on the mystery.

Hallowe'en Party received an adaptation in the twelfth season of the television series Poirot in 2010, starring David Suchet. Tropes for the adaptation can be found on the series page. A second adaptation, the third film in a series by director Kenneth Branagh, was released in September 2023 under the title A Haunting in Venice.

This work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The '60s: Takes place in the decade, with Desmond explicitly being described as wearing period-appropriate attire.
  • Arc Words: "Ding dong Dell, Pussy's in a well..."
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Joyce manages to be a prepubescent version of this trope, being regarded by most of the adults and children around her as a lying attention-seeker and not incredibly well-liked as a result. Her younger brother Leopold, a blackmailer, also counts.
    • Prior to the story's beginning you had Leslie Ferrier, a womanizer and a forger.
  • Attention Whore: Joyce is known to tell fabricated stories for attention.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Miranda is described as looking like a forest nymph who is perfectly at home in the garden designed by her father. Poirot describes her as a complete innocent by the story's end.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: The murderer is part of one, who by the end of the story have racked up a staggering four murders together, possibly including a fifth.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Nicholas and Desmond rush in to save Miranda from being poisoned by Michael Garfield.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Rowena Drake is a marvelous example. While appearing to be a good person, she's killed a little girl and has taken part in other murders.
  • Blackmail Backfire: Joyce's brother Leopold blackmails Rowena Drake, whom he observed murdering his sister. He is killed for it, true to Agatha Christie form.
  • Compulsive Liar: Joyce Reynolds' only notable character trait. Every single person Poirot talks to dismisses the possibility that she might've actually witnessed a murder as she claimed completely out of hand. They all turn out to be right.
  • Crying Wolf: Double subverted. Joyce Reynolds has a reputation of being a Compulsive Liar, so the people around her disregard her tall tales, including when she says that she witnessed a murder. When she's murdered herself, however, Ariadne Oliver can't help but wonder if she was telling the truth. She wasn't, appropriating a friend's story as her own, and she ended up getting killed solely because the original murderer feared being caught.
  • Death of a Child: The victim in this story is twelve or thirteen years old. The second victim is ten. Brr.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: The four murders that were committed by Michael Garfield and Rowena Drake weren't really necessary, given that if the real codicil had come to light, Mrs. Drake was almost assured to successfully contest Mrs. Llewellyn-Smythe's will on the grounds of undue influence, as almost everybody brings up when the codicil is mentioned. Olga, being a foreigner with almost no resources for a good lawyer would not have been able to mount much of a fight.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Ariadne mentions that she likes apples. One of the teenage boys replies that "It would be more fun if they were melons. They're so juicy. Think of the mess it would make."
  • Evil Desires Innocence: Miranda Butler is described as a wood nymph at home in the lavish garden where Poirot finds her. She is also the subject of interest by her father, one of a pair of murderers, who grooms her to become a willing sacrifice. Thankfully, she is saved by a pair of schoolmates before she can drink the poison her father offered her.
  • Halloween Episode: The first murder of the story takes place at a Hallowe'en Party in Woodleigh Common.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • The reason why Leslie Ferrier was killed. He had been an accomplice in producing the false codicil that was used to discredit Olga, and had to be removed from the picture after Olga was dealt with.
    • The reason Joyce was killed after she tells everyone she'd witnessed a murder. Tragically, it was unnecessary, as Joyce hadn't witnessed anything and Mrs. Drake was motivated by her own guilty conscience. Had she only thought a moment, Mrs. Drake would have realized that no one would have believed Joyce.
    • Michael Garfield had already been planning to have Miranda be his willing sacrifice, but the realization that it was she, not Joyce, who'd witnessed the murder of Olga meant he absolutely needed to see her dead. Thankfully, he fails here.
  • Human Sacrifice: Garfield attempts this on Miranda, having been grooming her for it, and ultimately goading her to an altar where he attempts to poison her, telling her to "drink to beauty".
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Ariadne Oliver is given one by Poirot after the murder of Joyce Reynolds, which has her nearly in hysteria.
  • The Ingenue: Miranda Butler, in stark contrast to both her father, Michael Garfield, and her best friend, Joyce. When she witnessed a murder from above, her first thought was that perhaps she oughtn't to have been there; when she tells the story to Joyce, she had no idea that Joyce would make it her own and get herself murdered for it. Feeling responsible for Joyce's death, she is extra susceptible to Michael's conditioning of her to accept the role of a sacrifice victim. Poirot lampshades this trope after she is rescued.
  • It Runs in the Family: All the Reynolds children are unpleasant to various degrees: 16 year-old Ann is an Academic Alpha Bitch, 13 year-old Joyce is a Compulsive Liar who likes to tell self-aggrandizing tall tales, while 10 year-old Leopold is a budding sociopath who would rather blackmail his sister's murderer for money than turn her in.
  • It's All My Fault: How Miranda Butler, the true witness of the pre-story murder which Joyce claims to have witnessed, feels.
  • Lady Macbeth: Rowena Drake. Even compared explicitly to the trope namer during the denouement by Poirot and Mrs. Oliver.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Rowena Drake again is seduced by the criminal mastermind for some money, possibly making her this.
  • Mad Artist: Michael Garfield, in spades. His murders are motivated by nothing other than his narcissistic desire to construct a beautiful garden on a Greek island, and to have the money to afford this.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The death of a young girl at a Hallowe'en party → a conspiracy revealed to have murdered several people for the sake of securing an inheritance.
  • Motifs: Lampshaded with regards to apples, which Hercule Poirot notes early in the case seem to be around a great deal.
    • The concept of Greece continuously shows up. Actually has plot significance.
  • Not Afraid to Die: Miranda has been groomed by Michael Garfield to see herself as an appropriate sacrifice victim, compounded by her feeling of responsibility for Joyce's death. Luckily, she is rescued.
  • Offing the Offspring: Michael Garfield tries to kill his own biological daughter, Miranda Butler, because she had witnessed him disposing of a murder victim and would thus be a threat to his plans. He even gives her the nickname "Iphigenia", referring to the daughter Agamemnon sacrificed.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Mrs. Reynolds loses her daughter Joyce and a few days later her son Leopold.
  • Red Herring: A good deal of attention is paid to two amorous teenagers right around the time of the murder, making it seem like they'll somehow be relevant to the murder. Not only is this not significant, it's not even mentioned during the investigation.
  • Riddle for the Ages:
    • We never do find out whether Mr. Drake's death was an accident or a deliberate murder.
    • Neither do we find out if it was Michael Garfield or Rowena Drake who killed Leopold Reynolds.
    • Poirot looks into all unusual and/or violent deaths in the past couple of years in Woodleigh Common, and of these only those of Charlotte Benfield and Janet White turn out to be unrelated to the case, so they remain unsolved by the end.
  • The Sociopath: Discussed in-story a great deal. As it turns out, there are a few littering Woodleigh Common.
    • Michael Garfield, a narcissist who tries to kill his own daughter and has been directly involved in at least two other murders, possibly having been a part of two others.
    • Downplayed example with Leopold Reynolds, Joyce's little brother. He doesn't seem overly upset about his sister's death, concerned more about himself. Worse yet, he's blackmailing his sister's murderer for his own gain.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: This story actually features a subversion with Mrs. Oliver, who's too upset to eat her trademark apples after the murder of Joyce Reynolds in an apple-bobbing pail. She temporarily turns to dates instead.
  • Would Hurt a Child: We have the murderer, who drowns Joyce at a Halloween party. Then there's Michael Garfield, who is willing to poison his own daughter in some sick ritual. It's not clear which of them killed Leopold Reynolds, but one of the two did.