Hallowe’en Party


by Agatha Christie

Published 1969

In this Poirot novel, our hero again teams up with Mrs. Oliver.  While helping prepare for a children’s Halloween Party, Mrs. Oliver overhears one of the children stating that she has seen someone commit murder, though at the time she was too young to realize what was going on.  Everyone laughs at the child, who is known for her untruthfulness and storytelling, and Mrs. Oliver wouldn’t have given it a second thought if the girl hadn’t been murdered later that same evening.

And so, she calls in Poirot, who begins is investigation.  While it was an alright story, there was a sort of weird vibe in this book that I can’t explain.  It just gave me the weirds.  And in the end, when the murderer is trying to kill again, he gives his victim a cup to drink, but then gets ready to stab her.  He’s stopped (by a couple of high school boys that Poirot had following him to make sure that the girl he was getting ready to kill was safe??  It seems like at this point he had enough evidence to justify having the police keep an eye on this dude, especially after he kidnaps the girl??) in the act of getting ready to stab the girl while she drinks, but when the police get there, the dude is dead because he drank the drink that he was going to have the girl drink, so apparently it was poison?  But if it was poison, why the stabbing?  It was just weird things like that that I couldn’t quite get my head around why the plot was going certain directions.

So, a rather meh book for Christie and Poirot.  2/5.

Dead Man’s Folly


by Agatha Christie

Published 1956

This Poirot novel reintroduces one of my favorite Christie characters, Ariadne Oliver.  Setting aside the fact that I am completely unsure how to pronounce, and can never remember how to spell, Ariadne, this character is delightful to me.  I love her dialogue, her happy personality, her exasperation with fame and her fictional Finnish detective, her love of apples, and her tongue-in-cheek autobiographical references to Christie herself.

In Dead Man’s Folly, Mrs. Oliver is one of the focal points.  She has organized a mystery hunt for a local fete, creating the story for the hunt herself.  Poirot marvels at her ingenuity.  I love this bit of dialogue, wherein she is attempting to explain the hunt’s story to Poirot–

As she spoke the boathouse came into view.  It jutted out onto the river and was a picturesque thatched affair.

“That’s where the Body’s going to be,” said Mrs. Oliver.  “The body for the Murder Hunt, I mean.”

“And who is going to be killed?”

“Oh–a girl hiker, who is really the Yogoslavian first wife of a young Atom Scientist,” said Mrs. Oliver glibly.

Poirot blinked.

“Of course, it looks as though the Atom Scientist had killed–but naturally it’s not as simple as that.”

“Naturally not–since you are concerned–”

Mrs. Oliver accepted the compliment with a wave of the hand.

“Actually,” she said, “she’s killed by the Country Squire–and the motive is rather ingenious–I don’t believe many people will get it–though there’s a perfectly clear pointer in the fifth clue.”

“Your ingenuity leaves me spellbound!  The things you think of!”

“It’s never difficult to think of things,” said Mrs. Oliver.  “The trouble is that you think of too many, and then it all becomes too complicated, so you have to relinquish some of them and that is rather agony.”

Anyway.  So there is a murder and things proceed as they normally do in a mystery novel.  For me, as I was saying in my last review of a Christie book (Hickory, Dickory Death), there is just too much going on, and not enough of it seems realistic.  In this book, the story felt choppy and characters rather flat.  I didn’t feel much sympathy or interest in any of them (except for Mrs. Oliver, of course), and the ending seemed a bit of a stretch.

So while it was a perfectly enjoyable read, it wasn’t a particular favorite, making this a 3/5.

Mrs. McGinty’s Dead


by Agatha Christie

Published 1952

I have to admit, the later Poirot novels are not my favorites of Christie’s work.  The last several that I’ve read are just not at the same level as the earlier works.  In this particular book, an old woman is murdered.  All evidence points to a young man who was boarding in her home, and he is duly arrested.  However, the police superintendent in charge of the case has a niggling doubt that he cannot explain or justify, and so he comes to Poirot and asks him to investigate.

Part of the reason that this book was hard to like was due to the fact that the accused is completely unlikable.  Poirot doesn’t even like him.  The guy doesn’t even like himself! And that’s part of the story, I guess, but still.  You just don’t really care whether or not he gets hanged.

Secondly, the plot gets quite convoluted (in my mind).  A newspaper article has been published, talking about four women who were involved in murders back in the day, a sort of retro “where are they now,” and Poirot believes that somewhere Mrs. McGinty (who was a cleaning woman) saw the original photograph, and that was why she was murdered.  So now there are four possible women involved, but he doesn’t know which one, and it could not only be one of the woman, it could be someone related to one of the women, or someone related to one of the women’s victims, and, I don’t know, it’s just all very vague and haphazard in my mind: somehow, the whole story is just a bit too coincidental.

The only bright part in this book is the appearance of Ariadne Oliver, whom I love.  Loosely based on Christie herself, Ariadne is an absent-minded writer of mystery novels who happened to write a mystery with a Finnish detective.  Her book was wildly popular, and so she has to keep writing about him, even though she knows nothing about Finns.  Her tongue-in-cheek references to Christie’s own difficulties with writing are always delightful.  She’s one of my very favorite fictional characters of all time, and I am super happy whenever she appears.

Overall, this was a 3/5.  Too many gaps in the plot for me, but some of the characters are just great fun, and Poirot’s complaints of his dreadful boarding house are also delightful.