Meanwhile, Mark Easterbrook, a historian learns of The Pale Horse, a former inn in the village of Much Deeping where three apparent witches arrange for people to die while the mysterious invalided Mr Venables lurks in the shadows. Mysterious indeed – for while Venables is apparently invalided, a reliable witness swears that it was him who walked up to Father Gorman and murdered him? More evidence of witchcraft – or is an earthly hand behind things?
I decided to take another look at this one before I watch the new BBC version of it – after all, based on previous adaptations, I thought I’d save the best version for first. I’ve read it before, but couldn’t remember much about it and decided I didn’t want the ending spoiled by the TV adaptation. I’m going into it with an open mind – I’ve watched the first episode already and it’s not awful – but let’s face it, no adaptation has ever improved on Christie’s original, has it?
You might recall that this was voted the third best non-series/non-ten-people-on-an-island Christie novel in the definitive Agatha Christie poll, so I was looking forward to re-reading it. I was fairly sure I enjoyed it the first time – but I had more reservations this time round.
First of all, as a whodunit, it’s really disappointing, especially coming from Christie. There’s a dearth of suspects – at least ones that are clearly aren’t guilty due to being too suspicious – and the misdirection that makes you look away from the prime mover in the crimes is basically stupidity. It seems so unlikely that someone who could put together such a murderous scheme would do such a stupid thing, which is quite a lazy way of making you look the other way.
As a thriller though, it’s an entertaining read. Easterbrook is an interesting lead, despite not having the deepest character, and the ideas here are refreshing original. There are some fun supporting characters – Ariadne Oliver plays a role and I did enjoy the love interest, Ginger. There is some reflection on some of the fears of the day and while I doubt anyone would recognise the method going on here, there is a lovely clue early on that the reader is almost guaranteed to miss.
A strong late Christie title, and definitely worth your time – now I wonder what the adaptation is like?
Trivia: this book saved two lives and caught a murderer when symptoms such as in the book were recognised in real life.