The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

This is one of the better and more interesting Agatha Christie novels I’ve read recently. Mysterious and simple, the one factor which makes this an enjoyable read is Christie’s trademark “communal” feeling in which an entire community is under spotlight. This story is full of twists and turns, peppered with plenty of red herrings.

The story starts off with a woman who contracted pneumonia and asks for a priest at her deathbed. She manages to pass him a cryptic message, a list of names, which he conceals in his shoe. Later the priest is found murdered on a street. Gradually a horde of characters get embroiled in this inexplicable case including a writer, an investigator, a pharmacist and a wealthy invalid. An earlier reference to Macbeth validates the inclusion of three characters (or witches) who perform séances and are involved in superstitious activities. Are their furtive actions linked to names on the list given to the priest?

The book starts off on an intriguing note but gradually becomes a tangled mess of characters and names, many of which are mentioned just in passing. Towards the end, the story starts to take definite shape as Christie leads us to an unlikely albeit a somewhat anti-climactic conclusion. Would recommend this as a light and quick read.

  • The noise it made had a sinister, not to say devilish, suggestion about it. Perhaps, I reflected, most of our contemporary noises carry that implication
  • even the minor domestic noises of today, beneficial in action though they may be, yet carry a kind of alert
  • It came to me suddenly that evil was, perhaps, necessarily always more impressive than good. It had to make a show! It had to startle and challenge! It was instability attacking stability
  • One of the oddest things in life, as we all know, is the way that when you have heard a thing mentioned, within twenty-four hours you nearly always come across it again
  • Indulging meanwhile in one of those desultory conversations where everyone utters his own thoughts, and pays little attention to those of other people
  • had his disability affected him? Had the loss of unfettered movement, of liberty to explore the world, bitten deep into his soul? Or had he managed to adapt himself to altered circumstances with comparative equanimity – with a real greatness of spirit.

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