The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie

Last year I took part in the Read Christie 2019 challenge hosted by the Agatha Christie website. The idea was to read twelve Christie books – one per month – corresponding to twelve different categories. I didn’t manage to join in with all twelve, but I read eight of them and enjoyed them all, particularly The ABC Murders, Dumb Witness, and the book for December, The Pale Horse. There’s a new BBC adaptation of The Pale Horse coming soon (not sure of the exact dates, but sometime in 2020) so I’m pleased to have had a chance to read it first.

The Pale Horse is one of Christie’s standalones and doesn’t feature either of her famous detectives, Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, although there are a few appearances from another recurring character, Ariadne Oliver. The story is narrated by Mark Easterbrook, not a detective but a writer and historian who is researching a book on Mughal architecture. At the beginning of the novel, Mark witnesses two young women fighting in a London coffee shop. A few days later, he is surprised to hear that one of the girls, Tommy Tuckerton, has died of what appear to be natural causes, unconnected with the fight. Presumably this is just a coincidence, but soon afterwards Mark learns of a list of names found in the shoe of a murdered priest – and one of those names is Tuckerton. When Mark recognises another of the names, that of his godmother Lady Hesketh-Dubois, who has also recently died, he becomes convinced that something sinister is happening.

With the help of his crime writer friend Ariadne Oliver and a young woman called Ginger Corrigan, Mark begins to investigate and finds a series of clues leading him to a former inn, The Pale Horse, which is now home to three witches. Not real witches, of course…or are they? Mark isn’t sure what to think, but it certainly seems that The Pale Horse is well known within the community as the place to go if you want to put a curse on somebody.

Christie’s novels are always entertaining, but this is one I particularly enjoyed. The plot intrigued me from the beginning; it seemed such an unusual set of circumstances and while I didn’t really believe that the three women of The Pale Horse were able to kill people through supernatural means, I couldn’t work out how else the murders were being committed. It was all quite unsettling, with a real sense that something evil was taking place. I had to avoid reading this book late at night!

It was good to see Ariadne Oliver again, who plays a small but important part in the solution of the mystery and in her role of crime novelist gives Christie an opportunity to put a little bit of herself into the story. There are plenty of other memorable characters too, though, from the three witches to Ginger Corrigan to Mr Osborne, a pharmacist who witnesses one of the murders and insists that he knows who the culprit is, despite all evidence to the contrary!

The Read Christie Challenge is happening again in 2020, with a new set of monthly categories. January’s theme is ‘a book that changed Christie’s life’ and we have been given a few suggestions to choose from. I have opted for Murder on the Orient Express!

17 thoughts on “The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie

  1. whatmeread says:

    I think I read one book that had Ariadne Oliver in it, but it didn’t seem as though she played much of a part. It was a Poirot mystery, as I recall. I’ll have to look out for this one, which I have not read.

  2. Margaret says:

    I enjoyed The Pale Horse – as you say it has a real sense of evil and menace. I hadn’t realised it’s been 100 years since The Mysterious Affair at Styles was first published – I think I’ll re-read it this year.

    • Helen says:

      I read The Mysterious Affair at Styles so long ago I can hardly remember it now. I did think about re-reading it this month for the Christie Challenge, but as there are so many of her books I still haven’t read yet, I decided to choose a different one.

  3. April Munday says:

    It only seems like five minutes since the last BBC adaptation, but I looked it up and it’s ten years. I see that this year’s adaptation is by the same woman who made Poirot unrecognisable last Christmas.

    • Helen says:

      I found the casting of Poirot in The ABC Murders last year very off-putting, but I did enjoy the other recent adaptations of And Then There Were None and The Witness for the Prosecution, so I’m keeping an open mind about this new one.

    • Christine says:

      The Pale Horse is one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels, and like you, I had to avoid reading it at night, I found it utterly terrifying!

      • Jo says:

        It is one of the better Christie’s and one I always recommend. I am hoping the BBC stay true to this one and don’t mess about with it.

        I am going to dip in and out of the Christie 2020 list and see what catches my eye that I haven’t read.

  4. Alyson Woodhouse says:

    I don’t remember reading this one, but it rings a bell, I must have seen a production of it on the tv at some point. It sounds a good one though, and if it features Mrs. Oliver, that alone would make it worth reading.

    • Helen says:

      I usually enjoy Christie’s books, but this was a particularly good one. I enjoyed the appearances by Ariadne Oliver and wished she’d had a bigger part!

  5. Davida Chazan says:

    I’ve read lots of Christie novels, but not this one. If any of the Tommy and Tuppence books are on the 2020 challenge, I suggest you read them – they’re my favorite because this couple actually get older through the series.

    • Helen says:

      I have read the first two Tommy and Tuppence books and really enjoyed them, so I hope there will be a chance to read more of them for the 2020 challenge this year.

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