Genre: Crime Fiction
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Mrs. Ariadne Oliver had gone with the friend with whom she was staying, Judith Butler, to help with the preparations for a children’s party which was to take place that same evening.”
A teenage murder witness is drowned in a tub of apples…At a Hallowe’en party, Joyce – a hostile thirteen-year-old – boasts that she once witnessed a murder. When no-one believes her, she storms off home. But within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the ‘evil presence’. But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double-murderer…
If it hadn’t been for Hallowe’en, I wouldn’t even know about this book let alone have found a copy to read it. It was brought to my attention by maidensofmurder who chose Hallowe’en Party for the October book. This is why I decided to read it too, and it just so happens that this was my first time reading an Agatha Christie novel!
The last book I read before this was The Loney which I expected to be more creepy and suspenseful than it actually was. But with Christie’s novel, I found a certain level of entertainment and engagement that I thought I would get in a contemporary crime novel.
Recently, I watched Sleuths, Spies & Sorcerers: Andrew Marr’s Paperback Heroes which was a three-part programme in which Andrew Marr explored the rules and characteristics of crime fiction, Fantasy and Spy novels.
It’s safe to say that Agatha Christie got a mention in the first episode, which focused on crime novels. And after watching it, and now reading a Christie novel, I got what I expected. A murder Mystery with a brilliant detective (Hercule Poirot no less) and all loose ends tied up by the time you finish.
Although I have nothing to compare this novel to in terms of Christie’s other works, I am familiar with her story lines, as I’ve watched plenty of the TV adaptations of the Poirot novels. I wouldn’t recommend this one for first time Christie readers like myself, because although I enjoyed it and awarded it four out of five stars, I don’t think it is Christie at her best. It gave me what I expected, and that was about it.
I hoped for a story line more focused on Hallowe’en, or for Christie to make the most of the setting to create a spooky murder mystery that would be genuinely chilling. But apart from the fact that the murder happened at a Hallowe’en party, there wasn’t much Hallowe’en in it.
I love Hercule Poirot and Ariadne Oliver. I’m also told that Ariadne is a recurring character in the Poirot novels, which immediately makes me want to read more. The story line was clever, but there was a lot of repetitiveness when Poirot was making his inquiries. Each conversation was recounted to the reader in detail, and featured information we already knew ten times over. I felt that this was a bit laborious to read, and also caused my concentration to lapse.
Also, I expected there to be only one murder, and for that to be the focus of the novel, but in fact this story line required Poirot to investigate other murders or potential murders, and then come back to the one we’re concerned about. This was the main factor in taking away the Hallowe’en spirit that I expected to get.
Overall, the whole book was as I expected an Agatha Christie novel to be like, the characters were entertaining, but the plot took its time to find its stride. The ending scenes, when everything starts getting revealed, were my favourite, and what I was waiting for. This is why people used to, and still do, read these novels and I don’t blame them. Poirot is a great detective, but having read this book, I’m sure that there are better Poirot ones to read than this.
Great to read around Hallowe’en, but don’t expect to be spooked too much! Just expect a murder mystery with all sorts of lines of inquiry that will keep you guessing and wondering right until the point all is revealed.
I didn’t guess who did it, and at some points I got confused with who certain characters were, and I was successfully misled into who I thought did it, but I definitely wasn’t expecting it to turn out the way it did.
Also, the ending line made me laugh, and it was a brilliant note to end on!
Link to the book on Goodreads:
If you want to see what discussions people had about the book for the maidens of murder October readalong, then check out the below post, but beware of spoilers!