the pale horse

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie gets its title from a verse by Omar Khayyám,

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

The Moving Finger was first published in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1942 and in UK by the Collins Crime Club in 1943.

A sudden spate of hate mail disturbs the peace of the little town of Lymstock. No body is willing to discuss it though until an inhabitant of the town commits suicide, apparently as a result of receiving one such letter.

The title of the book, The Moving Finger, is significant as the poison pen points his/her accusing finger towards the people of the town one after another through the letters.

One big grouse I have with The Moving Finger is the extremely late entry of Miss Marple. She comes in on the last 50 or so pages. It almost seems like she was added to the book sort of as an afterthought. But her appearance makes a difference for me at least. It manages to add a calming effect to the rather disturbing town of Lymstock. I’d very much prefer Lymstock with her as opposed to without her.

One thing that makes this book a good read for me is the appearance of Mrs. Dane Calthrop. Not many people may find her interesting but I do. Her abrupt way of coming and going from one place to another, the way she talks to people, the way people find her and conversations and observations alarming, makes her an unique creation. She appears in only one other Christie book,  The Pale Horse.

Christie gives the reader’s a chance to solve the mystery midway through the story. She gives us a few clues through the narrator Jerry Barton’s subconscious in one of the more intriguing scenes of the book. He fails to solve it but a clever reader may spot a thing or two.

I like the atmosphere of the story. On one hand I savoured the perpetually lazy feeling of holiday the story seems to have. But on the other hand the story also has a sinister undercurrent. The whole town seems to be wearing the mask of well mannered, gentle people. One is never quite sure what lurks beneath their benign surfaces.

Among the characters of the story, I liked Megan. She seemed to have more depth and a far more interesting character than many of the more beautiful and feminine but dumb as doll heroines I’ve come across in mystery fictions. I found the narrator of the story, Jerry Barton to be quite dull. He and his sister, who are prominent characters in the story, are not that interesting.

The identity of the killer is rather startling. The ruthlessness of the killer’s character is surprising considering his/her exterior. But it seems so plausible once Miss Marple explains all.

The Moving Finger does make an interesting read. The sense of evil under the appearance of serenity makes Lymstock an uncomfortable place to visit, even if one does so only in one’s imagination.

Book Blogger Hop: 10/14-10/17

                                                          Book Blogger Hop

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word!  This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week’s Book Blogger Hop question is:

“What is your favorite spooky book (i.e. mystery/suspense, thriller, ghost story, etc.)?”

I love a good spooky book! As I mostly read classics, I really love to find obscure books full of creepy stories. But my all time favourite spooky book is probably the most famous in the world. It is Dracula by Bram Stoker. Dracula has got to be the singular most evil and creepy villain I’ve ever read about.  If all goes according to plan then I am going to be re-reading it once again for the season of Halloween.

Also, from my favourite genre, mystery, my favourite spooky tale is  The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie. The book has a sinister tone to it and it works.

The Friday 56

The Friday 56 is a bookish meme hosted by Freda’s Voice.

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Link up at Freda’s site

Today’s sentence comes from The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, my favourite non-Marple/non-Poirot mystery from Christie.

“I took stock of my surroundings and had to admit that Hermia, as usual, was quite right.”

Musing Mondays (Aug.8)

This week’s Musing Mondays from Should Be Reading asks…

“This week’s musing asks…

If you were (are) going on vacation, what books would you take with you?

From my favourites I would take some Agatha Christies like Cards on the Table, Evil Under the Sun, Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories, The Pale Horse; etc. Or give Bram Stoker’s Dracula another re-read. From my yet to be read books I think I would take something light like Alan Bradley’s The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag or A Red Herring Without Mustard. Or maybe something I have wanted to read for a long time but have never got around to, like Charles Dickens’ Bleak House.

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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