The Pale Horse (1961) – Agatha Christie

Title: The Pale Horse
Author: Agatha Christie
Date published: 1961
Publisher: Fontana
Publisher: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Behold a pale horse and his name that sat on him was Death”

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The narrator of this very unique Christie is Mark Easterbrook, a young historian whose detective skills are limited to the amateur level. Even without Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, Agatha Christie’s famous detectives, Easterbrook is brilliant as a young intellectual stumbling through a murder mystery with considerable grace and precision. Personally I believe this is one of the least ‘dated’ of Christie’s work, and also one of her most daring with the introduction of a black magic element.

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The story begins with our hero, Mark, witnessing a fight in a Chelsea coffee shop between two women. A week later one of the women’s names appears in an obituary notice, and so begins Mark’s involvement into a mystery involving the subsequent death of a priest who upon investigation contained a list of names of prominent people most of whom it seems have passed away, including the girl from the coffee shop. Intrigued by this and with the help of an old Oxford pal Dr. Jim Corrigan who is a police surgeon, and a Chief Inspector Lejeune, the three men become embroiled in an investigation involving a certain converted inn called The Pale Horse inhabited by three women who may or may not have psychic powers, as well as the power to possibly kill people without leaving any tangible evidence. As the mystery slowly unravels and more characters become involved, the reader begins to doubt whether Mark will ever actually discover the real culprits behind the deaths of a group of seemingly unrelated and rich individuals. Meanwhile Mark is struggling to come to terms with the parameters of his relationship with a woman friend called Hermia, as well as his increasing romantic feelings towards Ginger Corrigan who is helping him with the case. Ginger’s role in the novel is that of a very strong female character on equal ground with Mark and her constant acts of bravery made me continuously root for her. Other interesting characters include the very pretentious pharmacist Mr. Osborne who witnesses the priest’s murder, the elusive Mr. Bradley who manages a kind of betting agency, and of course the women of The Pale Horse whose oddball predictions and beliefs are a refreshing aspect of English country life.

In true Agatha Christie style guessing the conclusion is not as obvious as it may sometimes appear. The constant introduction of new and equally intriguing characters does not hinder the main plot but rather keeps you guessing as to the truth right until the end.

What I have always loved about Christie’s novels is their ability to wrap you up in the mystery very quickly. They are all similar to the type of conversations we have with really good friends – they begin after a long absence as though that absence never existed. That I guess is how they’ve always seemed to me. A comfort in their consistency and a place where all ends are tied up as they should be, Christie’s are also not formulaic. Her ability to surprise us (the reader) is what makes her books so irresistibly addictive.

More Agatha Christie reviews:

Partners in Crime (1929) -Agatha Christie

Appointment with Death (1938) – Agatha Christie

Sparkling Cyanide (1945) – Agatha Christie

The Listerdale Mystery (1934) – Agatha Christie

The Big Four (1927) – Agatha Christie

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