The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie

After hearing rumours of witchcraft and black magic surrounding a mysterious old country house called The Pale Horse, Mark Easterbrook, a historian and an author, casually decides to investigate. Meanwhile, in London, a Father Gorman listens to the confessions of a dying woman as she warns him of great ‘wickedness’ that ‘must be stopped’. But before he can act, he is violently silenced. Is there a connection between the murder and the mysterious Pale Horse? Mark Easterbrook and Inspector Lejeune try to put the pieces of the puzzle together before The Pale Horse claims another victim.

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie was first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in 1961 and by Dodd, Mead and Company in the US in1962.

I enjoyed the clever plot of The Pale Horse. The way the themes of the supernatural and the scientific are woven together in to the narrative is commendable. The book has a sinister tone to it and it works.

I liked the character of Ginger Corrigan. She is intelligent and vivacious. I do hate the clingy, wallflower type of women that often dominate books!

The protagonist, Mark Easterbrook was bland but overall good. The characters of Thyrza Grey, Sybil Stamfordis, and Bella Webb are stock Christie creations with the new title of the ‘witch’ affixed to them.

The Pale Horse is notable for the fact that it contains a high number recurring characters, probably the most for any Christie novel.

It features one of my favourite Christie regulars, Mrs. Ariadne Oliver. Mrs. Oliver is a close friend of the inimitable Hercule Poirot and acts as his ally on several of his cases. Although she is not one of the main characters in this novel, she does hand out one or two rather important clues to Mark Easterbrook. Incidentally, Mrs. Oliver mentions of her involvement in the Poirot mystery Dead Man’s Folly in this book.

Another notable re-appearance is that of Mrs. Dane Calthrop. She appeared previously in a Miss Marple mystery, The Moving Finger. Her roles in both of these books are very similar. In both books she has a calming influence on the bewildered, urban hero who feels sorely out of depth.

Two of the main characters from the Poirot mystery,  Cards on the Table , Rhoda Despard née Dawes and Major Despard reappear here. I was very glad to see how their lives turned out after the incidents of Cards on the Table. It’s good to know that they remained friends with Mrs. Oliver throughout the years. Wonder if they stayed in touch with Monsieur Poirot too!

I must say that the first time I read The Pale Horse the identity of the main culprit surprised me. After finishing the book, I found that person to be kind of creepy in retrospect.

Christie’s theory that criminals ‘can’t let well alone’ reappears in this book. The ‘pleasure’ of getting away with murder gets dampened if a successful criminal cannot tell anyone how clever she/he really is. This theory recurs in quite a few of her other books.

Christie’s writing is a bit repetitive but overall good.

The Pale Horse is by far the best non-Marple/non-Poirot mystery I’ve ever read. I think it is a must read for mystery lovers. Very much recommended.

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