Mystery writer Ariadne Oliver has been invited to a Hallowe'en party at Woodleigh Common. One of the other guests is an adolescent girl known for telling tall tales of murder and intrigue -- and for being generally unpleasant. But when the girl, Joyce, is found drowned in an apple-bobbing tub, Mrs Oliver wonders after the fictional nature of the girl's claim that she had once witnessed a murder.
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William Morrow Paperbacks
October 27, 2003
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Excerpt from Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie
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.
At the moment it was a scene of chaotic activity. Energetic women came in and out of doors moving chairs, small tables, flower vases, and carrying large quantities of yellow pumpkins which they disposed strategically in selected spots.
It was to be a Hallowe'en party for invited guests of an age group between ten and seventeen years old.
Mrs Oliver, removing herself from the main group, leant against a vacant background of wall and held up a large yellow pumpkin, looking at it critically-'The last time I saw one of these,' she said, sweeping back her grey hair from her prominent forehead, 'was in the United States last year-hundreds of them. All over the house. I've never seen so many pumpkins. As a matter of fact,' she added thoughtfully, 'I've never really known the difference between a pumpkin and a vegetable marrow. What's this one '
'Sorry, dear,' said Mrs Butler, as she fell over her friend's feet.
Mrs Oliver pressed herself closer against the wall.
'My fault,' she said. 'I'm standing about and getting in the way. But it was rather remarkable, seeing so many pumpkins or vegetable marrows, whatever they are. They were everywhere, in the shops, and in people's houses, with candles or nightlights inside them or strung up. Very interesting really. But it wasn't for a Hallowe'en party, it was Thanksgiving. Now I've always associated pumpkins with Hallowe'en and that's the end of October. Thanksgiving comes much later, doesn't it Isn't it November, about the third week in November Anyway, here, Hallowe'en is definitely the 31st of October, isn't it First Hallowe'en and then, what comes next All Souls' Day That's when in Paris you go to cemeteries and put flowers on graves. Not a sad sort of feast. I mean, all the children go too, and enjoy themselves. You go to flower markets first and buy lots and lots of lovely flowers. Flowers never look so lovely as they do in Paris in the market there.'
A lot of busy women were falling over Mrs Oliver occasionally, but they were not listening to her. They were all too busy with what they were doing.
They consisted for the most part of mothers, one or two competent spinsters; there were useful teenagers, boys of sixteen and seventeen climbing up ladders or standing on chairs to put decorations, pumpkins or vegetable marrows or brightly coloured witchballs at a suitable elevation; girls from eleven to fifteen hung about in groups and giggled.