Deepa Swaminathan's Reviews > The Pale Horse

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
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Apr 21, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: murder-mystery
Read in March, 2011

Is it possible to cause the death of someone by sheer power of mind, that is, without any visible contact? Is it possible to contract a deadly disease merely by someone’s ill wish? Are there people who can act as a living bridge between the mortal world and a world of uncanny powers? Agatha Christie proposes this improbable and incredible theory in her highly interesting book - The Pale Horse.

Story - Third person’s narrative- The story starts with a description of an ailing woman calling for the village priest Father Gorman. She converses with him alone for a while and dies. After he leaves the woman’s place, he notes some names on a piece of paper and is himself killed almost immediately after. Apparently, someone wanted this list and couldn’t find it because the priest had hidden it in his shoe. Who could be the murderer?

Mark’s narrative- Mark (the protagonist) is a scholar, historian, archaeologist and a well known writer of articles. He gets to know about the murder of the priest and the queer list of names from his police friend. In due course, he finds out that a few people from that list have died recently, not murdered, but by genuine medical reasons such as paralysis, typhoid, pneumonia, epilepsy, etc.

Once, he is introduced to the inmates of a house called The Pale Horse. This is almost a ramshackle hut that was an inn of the same name many years back. Here are 3 weird women infamous for practicing witchcraft and sorcery. They are brazenly proud of their skills. They claim to make or break a human being with their psychological understandings and research of human nature, in addition to the usual voodoo, black magic and use of eerie charts! In return, they get huge money that their customers hand over with their requests to kill someone. The customers coming to them know that this couldn’t qualify as a murder in the eyes of the court since the ‘witches’ do not meet any of the victims! This seems to be a neat way of cold blooded murder.

Mark feels that The Pale Horse(this trio of occult women) has some relation with the list of names with the police. After making some enquiries with his acquaintances and after getting laughed at, he finally meets Ginger who actually believes these happenings and expresses her willingness to help him. According to their plan to expose this sorcery, Mark and Ginger phrase a plot where Mark pretends to be the prospective client for the Pale horse and Ginger poses as his wife whom he wants to get rid of. Will the noxious Pale Horse succeed in remotely murdering Ginger? Is this just baseless, innocuous, ridiculous mumbo- jumbo? If so, how could so many people die of genuine diseases?

My Opinion - It’s been long since I read these eerie, occult fictions and I definitely enjoyed it! I liked the fact that there is no detective in this story and the protagonist goes his own way in search of truth. There is a very minor role of the detective novel writer Mrs. Ariadne Oliver as Mark’s friend.The revelation in the end does have the "Christie stamp" on it since the twist is remarkable. Agatha Christie has done it again. She deceived me in a manner I could have never imagined.
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