A halloween party is underway and every guest is decked out in their scariest costume. But for Hercule Poirot, the scariest guest is the little girl who claims to have witnessed a murder.
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.…--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Ariadne turned to her friend, Hercule Poirot, for help in solving this crime. Together the two work to discover just who could have wanted the 13 year old dead and why. Along the way scandals from the past are uncovered, another murder committed and unsupected ones found. Apparently the peaceful village had been hiding blackmail, forgery, multiple murders, greed and madness for years.
The only things that were stumbling blocks to my enjoyment of the story were the lack of explanation of various terms like 'eleven plus' and references to the English school system - grammar school vs secondary modern and A-levels. I found these references distracting from the main story. The other thing I found annoying was a bit where a mother, who had been described at length as a loving, caring, responsible and intelligent parent wants to leave her child behind while she goes away for a few days. Not only does she want to leave the child behind but proposes to leave her behind with a family that had already had two family members murdered in the past two weeks. I found that very unrealistic and a very uncharacteristic 'blooper' on the part of Christie.
Still this 1969 novel has held up well, the action could take place today just as easily as 40 plus years ago. I highly recommend this mystery, particularly for fans of the scatty Ariadne Oliver.
It is true that some later Christie novels are not quite as palatable as her earlier work, but this is simply not one of them. As fresh as her first works, with a believable ending and a incredible and intriguing motive for one of her characters, I'm wondering how anyone could read this and not see the value. Christie shines when she takes out Poirot, and the duo of Oliver and Poirot is a treat.
The only flaw I see here is Christie's inability to see 'lower class' servants as capable of being worth as much as the upper classes, but she was a Victorian, and raised with prejudice. Still, the continual references in her books to servants who morbidly get excited about death, who are stupidly superstitious, who cannot make inferences, or in short behave like common sheep get to be wearing. Christie is also racist; Frenchwomen, Englishwomen, Americanwomen, and those from the 'colonies' are highly bred and of good bearing, but those from Spain, Italy, and other 'ethnic' countries are too often dismissed in a single sentence and described as having 'a simple good nature and flashing teeth'. Ouch. I won't even go into how she describes Arabics.
So long as you can view her work for what it is, a excellently crafted, yet lighthearted murder mystery, written by an Englishwoman born to priviledge, who lived in somewhat of an ivory tower, you will be able to enjoy.