It’s almost Hallwe’en, and people who observe the day are enjoying the costume parties, pumpkin carving, and trick-or-treating. It’s a spooky time of year, too, so plenty of people are having horror movie marathons or visiting haunted houses. It’s all got me wondering what our most famous fictional sleuths might be doing. After all, even sleuths deserve a night off once in a while. So, if you’ll park your disbelief in front of The Shining with some snacks and drinks, let’s take a look at…
Sleuths at Hallowe’en
I. Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie)
Poirot is sitting at his desk. He is going through the letters that Georges has just brought him. He stops at one particular one and opens it. He looks up at Hastings, who is sitting in the chair opposite him.
Poirot: Hastings, this comes from Lady Cranston (He opens the note and scans it). She has invited us to a – a masquerade party.
Hastings: Oh, yes, she has a party every year about this time. It’s a real coup to be invited.
Poirot: But a masquerade? C’est imposible pour moi! Costumes are for children! (He shakes his head a little).
Hastings: Lots of adults wear them, too, Poirot, especially at these things. It’s what’s done. And it’s a major social event. All the right people will be there.
Poirot (Thinks for a moment): And I understand Lord Cranston keeps a good wine cellar. Yes, perhaps we ought to attend, Hastings.
Hastings: What sort of mask will you wear, Poirot?
Poirot: Mask? Mask, you say? Hastings, I cannot possibly wear a mask. Think what would become of my moustaches!
II Armand Gamache (Louise Penny)
(The scene is the bistro/B&B. It’s been decorated with pumpkins, ghosts, a few candles, and small dishes of candies. There are glasses of wine on one of the tables.)
Gabri (Wearing an authentic-looking Tin Woodsman costume): Do we have everything ready?
Olivier (Dressed as the Scarecrow): I think we’re good to go, Gabri.
The door opens, and Gamache and his wife Reine Marie come in. They are wearing skeleton masks, and both are dressed in black. Reine Marie has a flowered headband. Right behind them is Clara Morrow, who is dressed as a butterfly, with wings she painted herself).
Reine Marie: This all looks lovely, you two! You’ve put a lot of work into this.
Gamache: Thanks for putting together this party. (He walks over and takes a glass of red wine. He lifts it in a toasting gesture).
Olivier: Blame Gabri. He’s the one who loves Hallowe’en.
Gabri (In a joking tone): I didn’t see you complaining.
Ruth Zardo (Who has just come in): Well, you both look ridiculous as hell!
Gabri: I didn’t think you’d wear a costume, Ruth. Oh, wait, that’s what you really look like! Yikes!
Ruth (Smiling in spite of herself): I thought of bringing Rosa along, but she’d probably get into everything. (She gets a glass of white wine and looks around.). Nice and autumnal. (Then she quotes a traditional Samhain blessing):
Blessed be for fine family and friends, For our abundance of fruits, roots, and
The others raise glasses
Clara: To an easy winter! The others echo her. No-one notices the sinister-looking stranger peering into the window…
III. Inspector Morse (Colin Dexter)
Morse is sitting at his desk working. Lewis comes in. Morse looks up from his papers.
Morse: Yes, Lewis, what is it? I’m in the middle of this. (He waves a hand at his work)
Lewis: You’re not ready then, sir?
Morse: Ready for what?
Lewis: For the Hallowe’en do. Don’t you remember? Drinks, eats, the whole thing. In the main meeting room. Even the ACC’s going to show up, I hear.
Morse (A sour expression on his face): Oh, not that, Lewis! Shriveled-up bits of food, watered-down gin, ridiculous hats, no thank you.
Lewis: You really ought to make an appearance, sir. It’s one of those politics things. DCS Strange wants us all there.
Morse (With a resigned sigh): Alright, ten minutes – one drink! (He slowly gets up from his chair).
At the party…
Morse (to Strange): I’d best be going.
Strange: You only got here twenty minutes ago.
Morse: I know, but I’ve got some case notes I need to go over. Very important interview transcripts, that sort of thing. (He mumbles a goodbye, and then leaves.)
At Morse’s Home
Morse is sitting in his most comfortable chair, with a crossword puzzle spread out. He is listening to Mozart’s Serenade No. 13 “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” and half smiling to himself. He reaches out a hand, picks up his glass of whisky and takes a sip.
IV. Ruth Galloway (Elly Griffiths)
Ruth and her daughter, Kate, are in Ruth’s car. They pull up to Ruth’s home.
Kate: We ought to have some Hallowe’en decorations out.
Kate: Halowee’n’s great! Lots of fun with costumes, and there are all sorts of sweets and treats. I love it!
Ruth: I just don’t like all the fuss, and all the money people spend on costumes. It makes no sense to me.
Kate: So you’re not wearing a costume to the party?
Ruth: Of course not! Besides, I’ve got some work to do before we go, so I don’t have time to put a costume on.
Kate: Another set of bones?
Ruth: Yes, the police found a body…
Kate: So you’re looking at a lot of old bones, but you don’t want to go to a ghostly party?
Ruth (Eager to change the subject): Well, you ought to get inside and get ready. They’ll be here to pick us up at seven.
Kate: Well, the party’ll be fun, anyway.
Ruth: I don’t know. It’ll be crowded, with fake decorations and fake scares.
Kate: It’s Cathbad’s party, mum. I don’t think it’ll be like that…
V. Nero Wolfe (Rex Stout)
Wolfe is sitting in his study, wearing his yellow silk pajamas and a bright red robe. He is looking over some notes. Archie Goodwin comes in.
Wolfe: Yes? You know this is my private work time, Archie.
Archie: Yeah, but they’ll be here in an hour, and you told me to remind you.
Wolfe: Who will be here?
Archie: Just a few people. I told you about this. It’s Hallowe’en, so I figured we ought to have some people over, have a get-together. It’s a good way to get clients.
Wolfe: You mentioned some visitors, but I did not agree to have a party!
Archie (With a sly grin): Yeah, that just kind of happened.
Wolfe (Suspiciously): You planned this entire event ahead of time!
Archie: Would I do that? Besides, what’s the harm? Fritz already has some food and drink planned. We’ll chat, have something to eat.
Wolfe: But Hallowe’en? It’s a nonsensical paean to the most childish myths and customs! Costumes, knocking on doors demanding treats, it’s all flummery! And especially so for adults, who ought to know better!
Archie: Look, it’s only for a couple of hours. And it’ll get us more clients.
Wolfe (Still annoyed, but resigning himself). I suppose…
Archie: Besides, you already have your costume on! He ducks out quickly before Wolfe can respond.
VI. Phryne Fisher (Kerry Greenwood)
Phryne is looking at her diary. Dot comes into the room.
Phryne (Pointing to a particular entry): Dot, what is this?
Dot (Leans over and looks at the entry): Oh, right. That’s the Hallowe’en party on Saturday.
Phryne: Hallowe’en? Isn’t that an American thing? Children in fancy dress go around and ask for sweets?
Dot: That’s part of it, miss. And there are ghost stories and witches and scary tales. They say the dead walk on Hallowe’en.
Phryne: Sounds like a bit of a bore, really. And besides, people don’t believe in those old ghost stories, do they?
Dot: Some do. And anyway, the party should be nice. Lots of people and good food and dancing. And there’ll be fancy dress there, too.
Phryne: A costume ball? Music and dancing? Perhaps it won’t be so boring after all…
Got any you’d like to add?